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Jun 18, 2014 9:59 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Teller Seeks Fifth Term As Westhampton Beach Mayor

Jun 19, 2014 3:59 PM

To say Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller is running on his record in his fourth reelection bid might be an overstatement, as it is difficult to ascribe a campaign strategy to someone who is not actively campaigning. One will not see Mr. Teller’s name on lawn signs, and if he knocks on someone’s door, he was probably invited over.

After eight years as mayor, Mr. Teller said he does not feel the need to spread the word about his past achievements; rather, he feels comfortable letting his record speak for itself.

“If they don’t know who I am by now, I’m doing something wrong,” the mayor said while sitting behind a table cluttered with paperwork inside his office at Village Hall.

A 1947 Westhampton Beach High School graduate and a veteran of the U.S. Marines, Mr. Teller is being challenged this Friday, June 20, by political newcomer Maria Moore, a local attorney. Mr. Teller served as chief of the Southampton Town Police Department for 20 years, and as chief of the Westhampton Beach Police Department for nearly a decade. He has been a volunteer with the Westhampton Beach Fire Department for the past half-century and currently serves with the fire police.

Now 84, Mr. Teller was first voted into public office in 2005 as a trustee. He was elected mayor the following year, replacing Robert Strebel.

Mr. Teller describes his proudest accomplishment during his long tenure as taking care of all the small things, while keeping spending tight and budgets lean, something he said has been of the utmost importance considering the down economy and the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap implemented in 2011.

He also touts his ability to build up the highway department, and maintaining what he considers a transparent government.

“It’s a lot of little things,” said Mr. Teller, who is again running under the Unity Party banner. “Fix this, fix that, keep the village together, enforce our rules without being too arrogant about it, I guess.”

That’s not to say there aren’t issues within the village that people want addressed, such as upgrades to roads and sidewalks, and the overall well-being of Main Street. However, Mr. Teller believes that some of those issues might be beyond the village’s ability to address financially.

“Main Street, yes—it’s been brought up by one of the Main Street people that we should develop a five-year program, a 10-year program, an immediate program. It all costs money,” he said. “Everybody says get a grant. Well, grants are—you’re just giving me money back; they’re not giving me anything new, and I’m still gonna have to pay for it somewheres along the line.”

Mr. Teller said he’s met with the Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce and plans on holding community meetings with village residents to decide what exactly they want to see done with Main Street. While he is open to suggestions, the mayor notes that he will continue to have a hands-off approach in terms of filling vacancies and deciding what kinds of businesses are appropriate for the village—as he has always done.

“People say we’ve got too many real estate stores,” he said. “If they’ve got the money, they can pay the rent. I don’t set rent, I don’t tell what business come in or don’t come in other than our regular building code.”

Mr. Teller acknowledges that there has been a re-emergent desire for some type of sewer system in Westhampton Beach, both to address drainage issues that send waste from septic systems into Moniebogue Creek and allow for more restaurants and bars in the village.

Although he said a sewage treatment facility is something the village should investigate, Mr. Teller still believes—as he did in 2006 when Westhampton Beach had the opportunity to connect to the county-run sewage treatment plant at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton—that there isn’t the money or political will to do anything about it. Mr. Teller defeated former Fox news anchor John Roland in 2006 and then-Deputy Mayor Tim Laube in 2008, both of whom supported hooking up to the county sewage treatment facility during their respective campaigns.

“Most of the people didn’t want to pay the cost,” Mr. Teller said, referring to the sewage treatment facility hookup, which proponents at the time argued would have cost village residents little to no money. “Is it viable now, eight years later, nine years later? There’s a big push by the state, by the county and the town, everybody, for sewage treatment plants, but right now there is no financial fund to reach into to grab a lot of money.”

While Mr. Teller prides himself on his ability to maintain the village’s finances, he came under fire last year when an outside audit revealed that the village doled out $22,000 in employee overpayments while he personally authorized Village Police Chief Ray Dean to buy back vacation and comp time, as well as the payment of six-months of sick leave to former building department employee Susan O’Rourke, now deceased, without the Village Board’s knowledge.

At the end of the next term, after a decade in office, he would be 86 years old, but he said he would like to continue to hold public office as long as he feels well enough to do so. By his own admission, the mayor has no interest in sedentary retirement.

“I think I’m in perfectly decent health right now, and I feel well enough and I enjoy it,” he said. “I put more time in than most people would have to anyway.”

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Mr Teller your answers in this interview are exactly why you need to be replaced in this position. Transparency of office- Are you kidding? Maintaining Village Finances- Are you kidding? Now you want to meet with Main Street and listen to their suggestions? Vote Teller Out. This Village cant afford his fiscal responsibility and transparency anymore!
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jun 18, 14 3:57 PM
Now that we know who you are and what you do -- real estate -- it's obvious why you want Teller and the current Village Board replaced.

Why is exactly why the real Westhampton Beach people need to keep him on at least one more term.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 20, 14 1:30 AM
Westhampton Beach can not afford having Mr Teller replaced.
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jun 19, 14 7:10 PM
What the Village of Westhampton Beach CANNOT afford is, Marie Moore and her husband and his crooked resolutions. I think Wheeler said it best.
By beachbme11978 (78), Westhampton Beach on Jun 20, 14 9:24 AM