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Mar 2, 2010 8:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays resident William Hughes says political bid is a calling

Mar 2, 2010 8:11 PM

Every career move that William Hughes has made has been a “calling,” and he said his bid for a seat on the Southampton Town Board is no different.

Mr. Hughes has been a pararescue jumper with the U.S. Air Force and New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, and has worked his way up from police officer to lieutenant in the Southampton Town Police Department. Now, he wants to serve the municipality in a different role: as town councilman.

“I think it’s something that has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time. I’ve always been interested in good government,” Mr. Hughes said, explaining that he often discusses local politics at home or with friends.

“So rather than sit back and complain or just talk about it, I intend to put the words into action,” he continued. “It’s my opportunity to step up to the plate and make a difference.”

After nearly 30 years with the Southampton Town Police Department, Mr. Hughes, who lives in Hampton Bays with his wife, Linda, filed his retirement papers shortly after he secured the Republican nomination in January. He needed to do that to run for the seat that was vacated when Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was sworn in on January 1.

Since he cannot be employed by the police department while also serving public office, Mr. Hughes said he will officially retire on Monday, March 8—a day before the special election on Tuesday, March 9, when he will face Bridget Fleming, another political newcomer.

“I don’t really want to leave my job,” Mr. Hughes said. “But it’s time. Time for me to leave.”

Mr. Hughes, 59, was overwhelmingly supported by Southampton Town Republicans because he said party members appreciate his conservative values, like fiscal responsibility and restraint. They also liked his long resume of community service, including his involvement with the Boy Scouts, Little League and the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays, said Ernest Wruck, the chairman of the Southampton Town Republican Committee.

“His local roots were very important to us,” Mr. Wruck said. “His conservative values were very valuable to us.”

Though he has not been cross-endorsed by the Conservative or another political party, Mr. Hughes said he’s still confident that he will win the election. “I’m going to win on the Republican line,” he said.

His opponent, Ms. Fleming, lost her first bid for the Town Board in November but has the backing of both the Democratic and Independence parties.

If Mr. Hughes wins, he will join Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski behind the dais, giving Republicans three votes out of five on the Town Board. Board member Jim Malone is a Conservative and Ms. Throne-Holst does not have party affiliation though she was supported by Democrats in her supervisor bid.

Mr. Hughes grew up in Bayside, Queens, as one of eight children. He joined the U.S. Air Force at age 19, trained as a pararescue jumper and eventually served in combat during the Vietnam War.

“It’s a tremendous, tremendous job,” he said, noting that there are only between 300 and 400 pararescue jumpers throughout the world. “The washout rate is incredibly high.”

When the war ended, Mr. Hughes was briefly stationed in New Hampshire. In 1975, he took a job as one of the first full-time cadres, or flight instructors, at the New York State Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, whose members are based at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. He then settled in Hampton Bays. At that time, the base was changing its mission to what it is now, a search-and-rescue operation, and officials there were attracted by Mr. Hughes’s experience, he said, noting that the commanding officer at the time hired him on the spot.

In 1981, Mr. Hughes was hired as a Southampton Town Police officer and worked his way up to be the commanding officer of patrol. He was also head of the force’s emergency response team and led that group into high-risk situations, like assisting with response efforts after terrorists leveled the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and talking an armed East Quogue man out of his Lewis Avenue Home in April 2007. On that day, Mr. Hughes said he spent five and a half hours on the phone with the man, who fired more than 100 rounds at officers during the stand-off.

“My people didn’t have to fire one shot in return,” he said. “He came out with his hands up, he was placed under arrest, he was also bought to court and got the help eventually that he needed.”

Mr. Hughes, who is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy, stayed on as a reservist with the 106th Rescue Wing until 1991, retiring just before the storm of the century, dubbed “The Perfect Storm,” slammed the East Coast on Halloween of that year, claiming the life of a fellow guardsman.

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Great resume, Mr. Hughes is clearly a patriot and a strong willed goal oriented personality. Can we ask specific questions and get answers? On the environment, does Mr. Hughes support the expansion of Dockers Waterside Restaurant into a large marina?
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Mar 8, 10 11:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
He openly stated in the debates that he was opposed to the project at Docker's.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Mar 9, 10 4:59 PM