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Mar 2, 2015 5:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Ed Warner Jr. Is Sworn In As Southampton Town Trustees' President

Mar 4, 2015 10:55 AM

Edward Warner Jr. was sworn in as the president of the Southampton Town Trustees on Monday afternoon, nine years to the day after the death of his father, Edward Sr., who had served as a Trustee for nearly 30 years.

“This is a bittersweet day for me,” Mr. Warner said, his voice cracking. “I’m taking over a position as a Trustee that he wanted me to have. It’s a dear thing to my heart, and I take the responsibility very, very seriously.”

Mr. Warner replaced Trustee Eric Shultz as the board’s president. Mr. Shultz, who remains a Trustee, had been president of the board since 2011. He has not said whether he plans to seek reelection with the rest of the board in the fall.

“The Trustees are about tradition, and we’re continuing it here today, like Ed’s father who handed the reins to Scott Strough and remained on the board,” Mr. Shultz said. “This works out good, because you have a former president there advising the new president. We don’t have a staff … we’re the staff.”

Mr. Warner is a professional bayman from Hampton Bays. He was appointed to the Trustees in 2006 to fill the seat vacated by the death of his father. He has been reelected to the seat four times and will seek a fifth term on the board this fall.

Trustee Scott Horowitz was appointed the board’s secretary-treasurer, to replace Mr. Warner.

Mr. Shultz’s leadership of the Trustees was defined by a board entrenched in nearly a dozen lawsuits, with the Trustees both plaintiffs and defendants, over their regulation of the town’s beachfront and bay bottoms. But his reign also saw a period of tension between the Trustees and the Town Board over budgets and the Trustees’ independence from town government.

Some members of the Trustees have said that they would like to see the Trustees transition into working more closely with the town in some ways, such as giving the town comptroller’s office oversight of their financial accounts.

The Trustees have long been a board that prided itself on its apolitical attitudes, but politics has caused increasing tension among the Trustees in recent years and seemed to be playing something of a role in Monday’s handover of power. Mr. Shultz, who was a Republican for most of his 43 years in town government—20 of them on the Trustees—switched to the Democratic Party in 2012 after the GOP rebuffed him for accepting a cross-endorsement during the 2011 election.

When the Republicans won the majority on the board in the 2013 elections it was widely assumed Mr. Warner would take over as president. But board members at the time decided that because of his deep involvement with the numerous lawsuits the board was facing, Mr. Shultz would remain president for another year. When the GOP members pressed the issue in January, citing a desire to see some changes made in the way the Trustees handle official business, Mr. Shultz begrudgingly agreed to this week’s changing of the guard.

The veteran official will continue to be the board’s liaison to its legal counsel for the numerous legal battles that the Trustees are embroiled in over their authority along the town’s waterfront. On Monday, Mr. Shultz harked back to Mr. Warner Sr.’s own staunch stance on the Trustees’ authority, both in the courtroom and the boardroom.

“I came from the Planning Board, where we regulated what other people could do with their land, [and] I remember your father said: ‘Now it’s your land—you have to protect it, don’t give up an inch,’” Mr. Shultz told Mr. Warner Jr. of Mr. Warner Sr.’s advice. “‘Don’t ever give up,’ he said. So let’s continue on his mission.”

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I know you will do a great job
Good Luck
By Jpal (5), hampton bays on Mar 3, 15 8:55 AM
this board should simply have no dealings with politics. it's a shame that such history can be tainted by it
By bettyboo (38), Westhampton on Mar 3, 15 10:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
Congratulations to Mr. Warner.
I think that Eric Shultz should run for either town council or town clerk. Mr Shultz would be excellent in either position.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Mar 3, 15 12:23 PM
Congratulations Ed , I'm sure your Father is proud! Keep up the good work please. Thanks for your dedication
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 5, 15 8:34 PM