Newcomer ousts incumbent trustee in East Williston village election

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Newcomer ousts incumbent trustee in East Williston village election
The Village of East Williston swore in a new trustee Monday night. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

Challenger Rushi Vaidya won one of the two trustee seats up for election Tuesday night in the Village of East Williston, ousting incumbent Trustee James Lark.

In the Villages of Williston Park and Mineola, incumbent candidates ran unopposed for their seats and were victorious.

Vaidya received a total of 203 votes, winning a trustee seat and pushing out Lark, who received a total of 166 votes.

Incumbent Trustee Anthony Gallo received a total of 196 votes, securing his seat. And incumbent Village Justice Emil Samuels received 246 votes, securing his seat.

Two Cub Scout troop leaders turned East Williston village board trustees, Lark and Gallo, have been serving together since 2020. The pair make good friends, living just a few blocks apart.

They are both fathers who like to volunteer for their kids’ organizations, whether it be coaching the local Little League or heading up a scout troop. They have worked well together over the years, with both trustees viewing the East Williston board as a well-oiled machine.

But their time on the board together will come to an end this year.

Vaidya moved from Astoria to East Williston in 2022 with his wife and son.

He volunteers for the local fire department and is currently attending fire school. Although a fairly new resident, Vaidya’s admiration for the town dates back to the early days of his 10-year relationship with his now-wife, who grew up in East Williston.

“I remember, with my wife growing up here, there was a recreation committee and the recreation committee would host events on the weekends or in the evenings and residents would show up to that,” said Vaidya. “But over the years, involvement has dropped down.”

He hopes to improve communication between village board members and town residents.

“I am young. I’m 34,” said Vaidya. “I’m hoping that the residents in the village who are closer to my age want to get more involved.”

Vaidya would like to implement sending out summaries after village meetings so all residents can keep up to date on town matters.

He said he has not only the time and energy to give back to the community but a background in engineering and construction project management that could be useful for the board.

With a 2-year-old son at home, Vaidya foresees another 30 years in East Williston for him and his wife. He would like to be a go-to person for other East Williston residents during that time.

“I’m willing to be present,” said Vaidya. “I’m willing to have my neighbors call me up at three in the morning if they have a problem.”

But Lark and Gallo have fulfilled that role for the past few years, and although neither were ready to stop anytime soon, Lark will now have to step down.

Lark has lived in East Williston for 12 years and he works for an insurance company in New York City. But the biggest resume standout that helped him clinch a trustee position in 2019 is his time spent volunteering in the community.

After longtime trustee Anthony Casella resigned midterm in 2019, Mayor Bonnie Parente asked Lark to assume the position after she noticed him participating at multiple board meetings. Lark stepped up to the plate after years spent working, coaching Little League teams and forming Cub Scout dens for his daughter to join.

“When the mayor originally asked me to step up, I viewed it as community service,” said Lark. “I love our village. I love living here. And the more people who step up in any capacity, the better.”

Just one year later, Lark found himself guiding Gallo through a similar situation when trustee Chris Siciliano decided not to run again. Lark, who knew Gallo through scouting, encouraged him to run.

Gallo has lived in East Williston for more than 10 years and works as a civil engineer. Gallo was first appointed trustee in 2020. He said his engineering knowledge has come in handy many times during his work as a trustee. The mayor agrees.

“Anthony works as a civil engineer and dives deep into our infrastructure projects and contractor bids and translates them into a language we can all understand,” said Parente. “He does this on his own time.”

Parente “enthusiastically” endorsed both Lark and Gallo.

Lark and Gallo shared many of their achievements during their time as trustees, including upgrading all of the LED lighting in the village and overseeing the redoing of gas line mains through the village. Gallo said he was particularly proud of the resurfacing of the tennis courts in the village, since many residents can now enjoy the use of the courts.

Both incumbent candidates had hoped to do more of the same if elected for another term. Both candidates ran with the Community Party.

Lark and Gallo praised Parente’s long-term plan for the village and said they hope to work with her on future tasks, including a large road repaving project coming to the village this year.

While Vaidya said he does not have any concerns for the village except for a lack of communication, both Lark and Gallo said their major concern for the village is the upcoming village-wide assessment of water lines for lead.

“How is this going to impact us as a village in terms of both cost and disturbing residents?” said Lark. “We don’t yet know what the extent of that is going to entail.”

Both Lark and Gallo emphasized that the assessments for lead and the repaving projects should be aligned to minimize disturbance to residents and avoid ripping up the same road twice.

While Lark joked that the board members do not always see eye-to-eye, he commended the board on always being able to reach decisions and respect one another.

“I think as a trustee I’ve done a good job of upholding the standards of the village, interacting with residents, and I think we have a really good board and mayor in that regard,” said Lark. “We work together very well. I think we have things running very smoothly.”

Gallo also praised board members on their working relationship.

“I think that residents should re-elect me this year so I can continue to offer what I can to the village. I feel like I did a good job – I’m doing a good job so far, and I want to continue to do it,” said Gallo. “I feel like my background ties in well with the rest of the board. Each one of us has our own little niche.”

Incumbent trustees Paul Cusato and Donna Solosky both won their trustee seats again in the Village of Mineola election Tuesday night. The two incumbent trustees ran unopposed. Cusato received 166 votes. Solosky received 153 votes. There were eight write-in ballots cast, though the names on the write-ins are unavailable.

Incumbent trustees William Carr and Michael Uttaro both won their trustee seats again in the Village of Williston Park election Tuesday night.

The two incumbent trustees ran unopposed. Carr received 114 votes. Uttaro received 125 votes. There was one write-in ballot cast for Richard Sais.

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