Hardy Plumbing
February 16, 2011

Prince Takes A Pass



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She wanted to serve the community, but probably had "the roughest three years of any councilperson in East Hampton." This week Julia Prince informed the East Hampton Democratic Committee that she will not seek re-election this year.

"I really thought long and hard about why I decided to do this in the first place," Prince explained Monday morning. "I really love it out here and always wanted to serve the community."

"When I ran I said I only wanted to serve one term," the Montauk resident continued. "I've always felt politics shouldn't be a career, it should be a passion. If it ever becomes about a paycheck, that's when it's bad."

"When I think back about my motivation, it really was about public service. I had a lot of goals. Of course I didn't know what was about to explode."

Prince wasn't in office long when the news of East Hampton's financial crisis and disgraced former supervisor Bill McGintee's fiscal predation began to surface.

"I worked real hard to out him," Prince recounted, "I did the best I could with a very dysfunctional board." As more and more was revealed about East Hampton's monetary mess, Prince often stood alone in voting against proposed expenditures, including offering "no" votes on two of McGintee's proposed budgets. With former Councilwoman Pat Mansir, she demanded public meetings with town auditors in an effort to determine the depth of the town's deficit. She also pushed for the creation of an independent Budget Advisory Committee. "I'm really proud of that. I had to use all my powers of persuasion to make it happen."

While grateful for the efforts to restore financial stability made by current colleagues on the town board, Prince this week expressed frustration functioning as a minority party member. With a GOP majority in place, she said she is often left out of discussions about potential initiatives. "In good faith, I need to be able to accomplish stuff and don't feel in this climate it's possible." Though she spoke of difficulty with being kept in the loop at town hall, Prince has also had a tenuous relationship with Democratic Party members. She refused to vote solely along partisan lines, occasionally earning the ire of the faithful.

"I really struggled to be independent and fair and want to continue doing that, being reasonable." Although she admitted she often felt alone, Prince said, "I think I've remained independent."

Elected in 2007 after running alongside McGintee and Councilman Pete Hammerle (who is also up for re-election) Prince took office in 2008, tallying 1000 votes more than the slate's standard-bearer. A former town code enforcement officer, after trying to fix town finances, her other focus was on issues young people face. Just 29 when she was elected, Prince said her youth gave her unique insight into that segment of the community and the struggle young people have finding work, housing, and staying in their hometown. "I felt the town was not going to survive if the largest employer in the town was the town."

While she's committed to "trying as hard as I can to do the right things for the rest of my term" Prince is also looking forward to spending time with her son Hudson who was born last June. Revamping the town's code enforcement department will be a special focus for the remainder of her term. After that, she said, "I have no plans."

The GOP's success at bringing order to the town's financial state, which included delivering an historic double digit tax cut, may make the coming campaign a tough one for Democrats. Republicans have their share of missteps under their belts, but the loss of a Democratic incumbent could make compiling a slate difficult. Hammerle is rumored to be seeking re-election, and names bandied about for running mates include deposed planning board member Sylvia Overby, financial expert Zack Cohen, and vocal board critic Rona Klopman, chair of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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