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Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant announced she was leaving public service this year.
She’s since been convinced to run for Brookhaven Town supervisor by Democratic party leaders.
A shuffling of the political deck is creating a wide open field for both Brookhaven supervisor and Suffolk County executive for both parties.
With current Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone term-limited out this year, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine is running for that spot against Dave Calone, the Democratic candidate.
Garant will square off against the current deputy town supervisor, Republican Dan Panico.
Garant insists that she had zero intention of running for the town’s top office.
“I swear I was retiring,” she told GreaterPortJeff. “I was going to take time for myself.”
She originally planned to retire in 2020 from her mayorship, but a little thing called a global pandemic kept her going until the crisis passed. So in 2023, she announced her retirement to the people of Port Jefferson Village, saying that she would not seek reelection for an eighth term this June.
Garant is part of a mayoral dynasty in the village. She served 14 years for seven consecutive terms; her mother Jeanne was mayor for three terms from 1999 – 2006.
It was time to step away.
“These people are ready to take over,” she said, referring to the current administration.
Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden has announced she is running for mayor of Port Jefferson this year alongside Trustee Stan Loucks, who is seeking re-election. No other candidates have stepped up as of the writing of this story.
“I’ve done my thing,” Garant said. “The village is in a great place.”
After announcing her mayoral retirement, Garant got a call from Anthony Portesy, the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee chairman. They met for coffee.
That meeting convinced her to throw her hat into the ring.
When the party announced its slate of candidates for Brookhaven Town, Garant was at the top.
Portesy, a Port Jefferson resident, has seen Garant in action and thinks her skills honed as mayor will be an asset at the town level.
“She has the executive experience and capacity on environment, social and financial issues,” Portesy told GreaterPortJeff.
“It’s not about me it’s about you.” That’s what she told the Democrats gathered for their convention on Saturday, Feb. 18, when her candidacy was formally announced.
One of the biggest issues facing Brookhaven Town residents is the closing of the Yaphank landfill in 2024, which will cost the town about $47 million in revenue, in addition to the problem of where to put the trash.
“This is a huge deal,” she said. “It’s a fascinating issue that I’m ready to tackle.”
Garant is no stranger to tackling major problems that affect both the environment and the bottom line. A comparable issue in Port Jeff involves the de-powering of the LIPA power plant, which also had revenues implications.
That involved a property tax battle against National Grid.
The utility company said the property was overassessed. Things ended with an agreement in 2018 to reduce the tax assessment on the power plant by 50 percent for nearly a decade.
In that battle and in the landfill issue there is one thing that helps the most, she said: “Keeping everyone informed.”
Blighted buildings and redevelopment are two other issues she feels Brookhaven Town needs to address. At the village level, Garant had crafted plans to revitalize Upper Port Jefferson over the entire length of her administration, plans that are now starting to bear fruit as mixed-use properties are beginning to spring up.
Portesy said that creating housing in an environmentally friendly way was only one of Garant’s many accomplishments that will translate well to the town level.
“We have to create a stock that allows young people to grow into housing,” he said, noting that young people need rental options that are affordable enough to allow them to build up a savings, eventually enabling them to purchase their first home on Long Island.
In addition to the landfill and redevelopment, Portesy said Garant is capable of handling all of the challenges that face Brookhaven Town, like stopping brain drain and helping create economic opportunities for small business owners.
“If you’re not a major franchise, then good luck getting zoning approval,” Portesy said.
The elephant in the room is the so-called Red Wave that washed over Long Island in the last couple elections, putting Republicans in office even in some regions that were generally thought to be solidly blue. Garant thinks that she has a good shot at turning the tide.
“All the issues we are going to talk about resonate to all people on Long Island,” she said. “They appeal to both sides.”
“We’re not your national Democrat, we’re your local Democrat,” he said. “We shop in your grocery store, eat at the same restaurants and we’re invested in a better Brookhaven because we have the same interest that everyone else does.”
At a time when the leaders of one of the biggest towns on Long Island and Suffolk County itself are both up for grabs with no incumbent in the race, there is ample opportunity for open debate.
“People are tired of the same old song and dance,” said Portesy.
He also said Garant is uniquely positioned to bring Brookhaven Town to the next level.
“She is a political dynamo that comes along once every decade,” he said. “We will fight like hell to get her elected.”
Garant is just as excited about the race.
“I just want to get the job done,” she said. “I feel good about it.”
Photo: Mayor Margot Garant and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in 2019. (file photo)