Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
The Village of Mineola will have a big seat to fill if the result of the 7th State Senate District race holds up and Mayor Jack Martins unseats incumbent Craig Johnson. Assuming Martins wins the seat, he would resign as mayor, and the remaining members of the board of trustees would choose a successor to fill the vacancy until the March 2011 special election.
That appointee would serve until March, when Martins’ term of office ends. The board would likely choose a replacement from among themselves, but they could appoint any village resident to fill the post. However, no change can take place until Martins resigns from his post of village mayor.
Martins has to resign as mayor no later than Dec. 31 because if he wins the election, he has to take office on Jan. 1. When Martins steps down, Deputy Mayor Lawrence Werther would temporarily assume the basic administrative functions as mayor until the board of trustees chooses a replacement for Martins.
Furthermore, Werther can call the meeting of the board and appoint an interim or acting mayor. He essentially becomes the acting mayor, but only until such time the board can meet and either make him the permanent acting mayor until March, or appoint someone else. At that point the board has two decisions to make that were just previously mentioned.
According to village officials, this process gives the public a chance to choose the next mayor in March, rather than just appoint someone without standing for election. Even if the board appoints Werther as the acting mayor, he still has to stand for election in 2011. Anyone over the age of 18 and is a village resident can run for mayor.
Werther said in terms of running for mayor in March, that, “I’m comfortable that I could do the job. I would be honored to serve the people of Mineola as mayor. However, that’s a decision I have to make that’s best for the village first, and best for me second.”
Former Mineola mayor John Colbert, Martin’s predecessor, was rumored to be interested in running. However, Colbert confirmed to the Mineola American that he is not interested in running at the moment.
“At this point in time, I have not given that any consideration,” Colbert said. “I don’t think Jack [Martins] winning or losing would deter me from one way or the other, in running or not running. But I have not given it any thought.”
Trustee Paul Pereira stated that he feels the current board has put the entire infrastructure in place in terms of budgetary and staffing elements and that the village, “is going to continue on the path it has for the last eight years. Mineola stands on sound fiscal ground, on staffing ground. Although Jack will be missed, the village will continue in the direction it has been going in the last eight years.”
Pereira said he is not considering running for mayor at this time, but would not rule it out. Fellow trustee Thomas Kennedy stated that he has not thought about running for mayor.
“The village has a sound business model,” Kennedy stated, “It’s been working. The next person, whether it be man or woman that comes into being mayor, I think, as long as they follow this successful model, the village will continue to grow.”
Rumors are apparently rampant about who would fill the potential mayoral vacancy. Sources say that Trustee Paul Cusato may suggest that there should be no temporary mayor, and leave the seat empty until the March elections. Cusato did not confirm those rumors.
“I have no interest in running for mayor,” Cusato said. “I never made that statement. I’m not sure what’s going to happen yet.”
The day-to-day operations would fall to each village department, according to an individual close to the discussions, if the mayor’s seat stays vacant until March.
The board of trustees has the power to appoint any village resident to the position. But considering their appointee would serve only three months before standing for election, it is possible that Werther could simply serve out Martins’ term.
Werther has served on the board since the mayor appointed him deputy mayor in 2003. Martins declined to endorse anyone as his successor.
“I will not advocate for anyone in particular,” Martins stated. “However, there has to be someone there who will continue to provide those same quality services that people have become accustomed to; in addition to providing the financial leadership to make sure the village stays on the right track and begin to develop next years budget so that it can be presented in a timely fashion.”