East Hampton Town Supervisor William Wilkinson (Republican, Independent) is running for re-election. I asked him why he was running for re-election and he said, “Faced with a perilous national economy; cuts at the federal, state and county levels; and critical decisions that still must be made to continue the Town’s fiscal recovery, I believe it is imperative to have continuity of leadership and management over the next two years.”
In response to a question about the importance of the Election of 2011 to the Town of East Hampton, Wilkinson said, “We were the first Town to address this municipal financial crisis and did so in a way that was least disturbing to our residents. When I came into office in January 2010, town bankruptcy discussions were already taking place. Our operating budget approximated the operating budget for Southampton—a Town that has three times the population and twice the square miles. We ranked #3 in debt per capita of 932 Towns in the State of New York. Our residents had faced a tax increase of 25%, followed by a 10% increase the next year. We had to get approval from the State Legislature for $30 million of borrowing just to pay off the former administrations IOU’s. We were presented with a 2010 operating budget, approved by the previous administration, that was $8 million dollars more than necessary. We delivered a 2011 budget that was $10 million dollars less thus providing a 17% property tax reduction and continued our reduction into 2012. Departments were consolidated and staffing was trimmed in 2010 by over 50 positions, all through freezing positions and voluntary retirements. This type of thinking and problem solving was not present in the prior administration nor with the former budget office. Our full-time residents cannot afford increased taxes and uncontrolled spending. The ship is still listing and needs continued board competence for it to become fully righted.”
When asked why it was important to defeat his opponent Zach Cohen, Mr. Wilkinson replied, “I have said all along that this election is about résumé, record and results. It is about the résumé of someone who continually progressed in the private sector from the lowest to the top positions over a 35-year period. It is the experience of a military officer leading men and women. It is the résumé of someone who led labor negotiations and branded new employee concepts that worldwide organizations emulated. It’s about converting that body of knowledge to municipal leadership where bankruptcy was averted and taxpayers saw the results in their pocketbooks during the worst national fiscal crisis since the Depression. I did not work for my family at their delicatessen. I did not have the luxury of biking throughout Europe for five years. I did not work in so called real estate development for 37 years. And I did not live in East Hampton since 1991 while holding jobs in Miami and other places.” (Referring to Zach Cohen).
“You can verify each step of my career, as the Democratic Party did by writing to my employers during the 2009 campaign.” Wilkinson concluded by saying, “When a Category II hurricane is coming up the Coast and you have to make tens of decisions on a minute by minute basis, whose résumé and record can you rely on. I think the Town of East Hampton has to forget politics and vote résumé, record and results.” When Mr. Wilkinson was asked what was his greatest accomplishment as supervisor, he said, “I am most proud of introducing business professionals to the Town Board. These professionals were necessary to implement a financial strategy that saved the Town. They brought their creative problem solving to day-to-day decision-making allowing us to restructure municipal government while not sacrificing security, safety and seniors. I thank them for the incredible sacrifices they have made.” He went on to say, “I thank the unions—the Police Benevolent Association, Dispatchers, and Civil Service Employees Association—for bargaining collectively and understanding the financial difficulties of the Town. They are truly partners. These groundbreaking contracts could not have been completed by a Supervisor who did not have a history of union negotiations, bargaining and mediation.”
Wilkinson added, “I want to thank the residents who understood there was a better way to govern; that the impact of every tax dollar; and for voting for a board that is tasked with policies and program that will not only retain our residents through affordable government but will ensure that we position properly for generations to come.” As for his vision of the town for the future, Wilkinson said, “I would like our Town to lead all Towns in financial stability regardless of the crisis at the federal, state and county levels. We introduced a public/private paradigm that has seen an incredible outflow of private participation in assisting the Town during this crisis. This is why our community is so great. It must continue.”