Having just been sworn in, Fred Overton, a registered “blank,” said his position as the “superminority” on the now mostly Democratic East Hampton Town Board will make his job a little more difficult, but he expects compromise and cooperation to be his saving grace.
“I worked with the town for 24 years, 10 years in the assessor’s office and 14 in the clerk’s office, and over the years I’ve learned that compromise and cooperation seem to be the best approach,” he said. “I’ve seen conflicts go unresolved because board members were not willing to compromise.”
He said the Democrats seem to be willing to work with him and want him to be part of their administration—good news for Mr. Overton.
“I’m very confident we’re going to have a civil, solid working relationship among the board members,” he said.
Mr. Overton will have his hands full right away. He has been assigned to the Deer Management Committee, which will put him at the center of a controversial topic in the town.
For months, there has been much discussion and outcry against a plan to cull deer herds within East Hampton as a result of the village joining the Deer Project proposed by the Long Island Farm Bureau and to be carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It’s going to be interesting … there’s been a lot of controversy,” Mr. Overton said. “I’ve been in favor of culling, but if there are additional methods we should be looking at, then I’d be willing to do that.”
He said he will soon meet with the committee for the first time and see where the town stands in getting the Farm Bureau involved.
“There are so many issues for us to be working on at the moment,” he said, pointing to beach replenishment in Montauk, improving waste treatment and ongoing zoning issues, such as the Talmage family’s request to downzone their land on Cedar Street. That application has been an emotional one since the entire family has asked Town Board members to consider the change so they can build family homes there.
Mr. Overton said that he hopes this particular issue will be a priority in the coming months.
“Right now, really important issues need to be resolved, early on in the administration,” he said, explaining that he has no agenda. “Larry is trying to set the agenda. He will take the lead, and I will work with him to get these issues taken care of in a timely manner.”
Most important, he said, he wants to build morale within town government, and especially forge good working relationships with his fellow board members.
“In the assessor’s office and the clerk’s office, as often as possible, I worked with the staff and impressed on them that they are the face of the East Hampton government, and the job they do reflects on me and the rest of the town,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have great people working for the town and myself, and I’ve been able, in my office, to keep morale up to do the job that needs to be done for East Hampton.”