June 21, 2006

WHB: Roland Narrowly Defeated Teller Takes Mayoral Race

In the end, it came down to 25 votes.

That's the margin by which Conrad Teller won the Westhampton Beach Village election last Friday, after a day of voting during which residents turned out to the new Village Hall to choose between two candidates who were polar opposites in their views.

Teller came out ahead in the race, with 372 votes, compared to his opponent, former FOX-5 newsman John Roland, who garnered 347.

Also victorious were Teller's First Party running mates, incumbent Trustee James Kametler, who won over Roland's Hurricane Party running mate, incumbent Trustee Tim Laube, and Toni Jo Birke, who emerged victorious over Hurricane Party candidate Barbara Ramsay.

Teller waged a campaign based on taking a breather from the flurry of activity witnessed in the village recently. "It's time to get back to basics," he said. The village, he has said, has recently completed a number of big-ticket projects, including a new village hall, new sidewalks, and a new roundabout.

Now, he maintains, it's time to take stock and spend time attending to village housekeeping. One of his first goals, said Teller, is to work to get village board meeting times scheduled for evenings so that more of the public can attend. And, he said, it's time to "get everyone calmed down so we can work together."

Teller's statement reflects an election race that has been nothing short of tumultuous.

Roland said last week that the race had gotten "ugly" with a sea of vicious rumors swirling about, including one "untruth" that claimed he was planning to fire the entire Department of Public Works.

"It's been a long road," said Roland, standing outside village hall only moments before the election results.

The race was marked by major issues, including Roland's belief that the village is in dire need of a sewer district on Main Street, without which, he says, new businesses such as restaurants and shops are unable to open and thrive.

Teller, meanwhile, said that while he is not refuting the need for a sewer district on Main Street, he believes it is up to the people to decide and more information is needed before any plans can progress.

And a recent reassessment by the Town of Southampton has had many village residents in an uproar. The issue became integral to the election when Laube and Roland, along with a number of Westhampton Beach residents, announced that they planned to file a class-action lawsuit against the town, arguing that commercial properties were not included in the reassessment. In addition, the possibility of Westhampton Beach conducting its own reassessment has been bandied about.

In the end, though, Teller, a former village police chief who was born and raised in Westhampton Beach, won over Roland, a familiar face to many who watched him for years as he broadcast the evening news.

Roland graciously shook Teller's hand after the winners were announced. "The people have spoken," said Roland. "I wish him all the best."

As for Teller, he laughed when asked his immediate plans. "My first goal is to get some sleep!" he said.

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