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Port Washington North celebrates village unity with retiring, current and new officials joining together for an Election Night Victory Party held at Louis & Marxx Steak House & Wine Bar on the corner of Shore Rd. and Mill Pond in Port North. Pictured, (left to right): Mayor-elect Bob Weitzner, Trustee Steve Cohen, Trustee-elect Daria Hoffman, retiring trustee Gary Levi, retiring Mayor of 34 years -- senior in New York State -- Tom Pellegrino, and re-elected Trustee Michael Schenkler. (Photo by Allison Schenkler)

Baxter Estates Mayor James Neville said he was "stunned, shocked and disappointed" at the surprise write-in campaign waged by James Maher, who won the recent village mayoral election. Neville, as well as virtually all the Baxter Estates voters (except, of course, for those who waged the write-in campaign), believed the election to be uncontested. The turnout on Election Day - March 15 - was therefore exceedingly small - Maher won by 29 write-in votes to Neville's 13. Baxter Estates has a population of slightly over 1,000 persons. Maher had served as a trustee during Neville's incumbency.

Neville, who was mayor for four years, said, "I am bewildered that John didn't approach me to say directly that he wanted to be mayor. If John objected to my mayoral style, he should have declared himself a candidate. This would have allowed an honest, open, and democratic competition for the post. That way the entire village would have had the opportunity to decide who was best suited for the job." Neville added, "I just don't think it's the right way to do things."

A number of Baxter Estates residents were upset at the secret nature of the write-in campaign. One of them, Jackie McGowan, a former village trustee, said, "This doesn't serve the village. It is not a democratic way of doing things. It was a hand-picked candidate elected secretly. It's just not right." McGowan added that she finds it scary that in the future one could end up with an individual elected secretly whom one doesn't even know.

John Maher e-mailed the following statement to the Port Washington News (reprinted in its entirety).

"I and the other village trustees worked well with Jim and did not initiate or orchestrate a write-in. This was not a 'palace revolt'.

"Two days before the election, I was leaving on vacation fully expecting Jim's unopposed re-election when I received calls asking me to be a write-in mayor. After thinking this over during most of the day, realizing the extent of the support, I consented.

"Some residents felt Jim, who has a busy job, was not sufficiently involved in the village. Jim accomplished things for the village and I wish him the best.

"There's nothing personal here - it's about the village. We have much to do and are looking forward to it."

The Port News attempted to follow-up and clarify this statement in a telephone interview. Among the questions we posed were the following: Why did Maher not notify Jim Neville and/or the people of Baxter Estates, even if it was at the last minute? What, exactly, were the issues? In what way was Jim Neville "not sufficiently involved?" Who were the individuals or groups who "drafted" Maher to run? Why does he want to be mayor; what things does he hope to accomplish? In answer to all of these questions, Maher said, "I don't wish to comment beyond the statement."

In response to the Port News query about the accomplishments of his administration, Neville mentioned helping the Shields family to rebuild after 10 years, repairing the water main on Sandy Hollow Road, getting Baxter House landmarked, and getting the county to upgrade Baxter Pond. "But," he said, "What I am most proud of is that we brought in much more audience-friendly, open, democratic meetings. We encouraged input. I had said, 'Let's make it more friendly and democratic.'" Jim Neville was born and brought up in Port Washington.

Also running uncontested in Baxter Estates were incumbent Trustees Charles Comer, who received 36 votes and Raymond Keenan with 35 votes. There was one write-in for Fred Nicholson.

Port Washington North and Flower hill village elections held the same day were uncontested. The results follow:

Port Washington North
Mayor
Robert Weitzner 97
Steve Kaplan (write-in) 6
Trustee (2)
Michael H. Schenkler 89
Daria K. Hoffman 91
Steve Kaplan (write-in) 2
Barry Loeb (write-in) 1
Burton Cohen (write-in) 1
Peri Sue Zausner (write-in) 1
Flower Hill
Trustee (2)
Avery Ryan 21
Tab Hauser 22
(No write-in votes)

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