Damon Rallis secures nomination for town supervisor as Dems announce slate

Lisa Finn

The race is on for the Southold Town supervisor’s seat, with Damon Rallis securing the nod of the town’s Democratic committee at a nominating convention held tonight at Touch of Venice in Cutchogue.

Rallis will be facing off with incumbent Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who received the GOP nomination last week.

Also on the Democratic ticket are candidates Albie de Kerillis and Debra O’Kane, both running for town council seats, Matt Kapell and Nick Krupski — Kapell is the son of former Greenport Mayor David Kapell and Krupski, the son of Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski — running for town trustee seats, Linda Goldsmith, running for assessor, and Brian Hughes, running for town justice.

The Southold Town Democratic committee did not nominate any candidate for the position of tax receiver.

Rallis said he has been working in Town Hall for almost 15 years, and in that time, has done his best “to serve the people of Southold fairly and honestly.”

Reflecting on his decision to run, Rallis said, “A lot of people ask me, ‘Damon, are you crazy? Why would you want to be town supervisor?’ The answer is simple. Southold Town is my home. It always has been. It was my grandfather’s home; it was his father’s home; and his father before him.” He added, “My wife Joanna and I are blessed. We both have good, secure jobs. But, like many of our neighbors, being able to stay here in Southold, our hometown, has not been without struggle.”

Friends, relatives and “some of our town’s best and brightest” have had to leave Southold due to a lack of jobs, affordable housing, and a high cost of living, he said.

“We know what it feels like to hang on for dear life, praying we won’t have to leave this cherished place,” Rallis said.

Rallis said the town supervisor’s post must be “served with humility,” and he looks forward to running on a ticket that represents a cross section of the community. “I can’t think of a better group of people than the folks on this ticket to usher in the true representation and bipartisanship that the people of this town deserve,” he said.

Thanking the committee for his nomination, de Kerillis, a United States Army veteran who works on Plum Island and has served for years as a firefighter, as well as a commissioner for the Orient-East Marion Park District, a volunteer for John’s Place, and member of the North Fork suicide prevention group, said he was a Republican town board candidate in 2009 who lost to Chris Talbot and later, to Krupski, in the race for Suffolk County Legislature.

Although he said he was offered a spot on the GOP’s slate, de Kerillis said he declined in favor of the Dems. “This is truly a ticket for Southold Town,” he said. “With my background, I feel I can face any situation, dire or not.”

He added that his campaign will focus on fiscal responsibility, land preservation, and a proactive stance toward protecting area waters.

O’Kane, former executive director of the North Fork Environmental Council, said there was a “certain quality of life in Southold Town we’ve all come to enjoy,” including beaches, wetlands, open space and farmland. “If it wasn’t for foresight and planning Southold would probably look like the rest of Long Island.”

To that end, O’Kane hopes to focus on the comprehensive plan, with an eye toward seeing all its recommendations come to fruition.

One her proudest achievements with the North Fork Environmental Council was seeing the Community Preservation Fund legislation enacted, she said. “The proof is in the pudding,” she said, adding that land preservation has helped to maintain community character.

Another critical issue, she said, is affordable housing, with young people and seniors struggling to stay in Southold.

Kapell commended the committee for accepting younger candidates, a move he said demonstrated a “commitment to the future.”

Having spent many years on the North Fork waters, Kapell said while Southold has made “great progress in preserving land, the same commitment needs to be made in protecting the water in our bays and creeks.” Balance is needed to that end in Town Hall, he said.

Krupski, who grew up on his family’s farm, said he was running for trustee not only because his father had served in the post for 20 years but because he was passionate about the environment, with a master’s degree in biology and education and most recently, working with Cornell in habitat and wetland restoration; he also works for the Suffolk County Water Authority to provide “clean, safe, water for everyone.”

He added, “I want to preserve this town.”

Goldsmith said as the granddaughter of a bayman and daughter of a farmer, her family has deep roots in Southold Town. With her family’s experience in the construction business, she said she “can tell you, how much, to a dime, a house will cost to build.” For years, she also worked as a waitress. “I enjoy people,” she said.

Goldsmith is beginning her 26th year serving on the Oysterponds board of education; she also was elected with de Kerillis as a commissioner of the Orient-East Marion Park District. Goldsmith also teaches religion at St. Agnes in Greenport and

“I will live in a tent before I leave Southold Town,” she said. “I think I live in heaven. I’ve worked two to three jobs, to stay here.”

Hughes, running for town justice, is also a firefighter. After attending law school, he said he served as an assistant attorney general for New York State investigating corruption in New York City’s court system and later, worked for the department of investigations in New York City, uncovering “criminal or civil wrongdoings, like stealing the public’s money.”

Of the recent Southold justice court clerk who “absconded” with town funds, he said the goal is to restore ethics and confidentiality to the town’s justice court.

“Somebody wasn’t watching the cash box,” he said. “A quarter of a million dollars was removed from our coffers. That’s a significant amount of money. This is Southold.”

In 2014, he said, the Southold justice court brought in approximately $531,000. “So, with nobody noticing, an amount equal to half of the justice court’s proceeds disappeared,” he said.

Hughes also said under his watch, he’d like to see a greater percentage of bail money retained by Southold Town and not given to the county or state. Currently, he said, the town retains 35 percent while in Southampton and East Hampton, that number is 65 percent.

Southold Town Democratic Party chair Art Tillman said de Kerillis and Goldsmith came from the GOP party.

“Our team is Southold Town, it’s not the Democratic party. And we’ll welcome any good person who has something good to offer this town,” he said.

While he said the Dems are facing challenges and will represent one line on the ballot as opposed to the GOP’s three, “our candidates know that, and they’re still coming. Ours is an open party. We have nothing to hide. We welcome you. If you put Southold first, come on over.”

Last week, the GOP held their nominating convention, announcing their full slate of candidates at the Soundview.

“It is a good ticket with candidates that have a proven track record serving in town government and the community. I am grateful that the committee gave me the opportunity to ask the voters for their trust and confidence for four more years,” Russell said.

Current incumbents were re-nominated, including Town Councilwoman Jill Doherty, Councilman Bill Ruland, and Trustee David Bergen; William Goggins will run for town justice to fill the seat of Judge Rudy Bruer, who is retiring. Rich Caggiano has been nominated to continue as town assessor.

A new face, Glen Goldsmith, will run for trustee; incumbent Jim King announced he would not run again in the upcoming race.