By Connor Beach
Northport resident Michael Bento got his first political campaign off to an early start last week when he announced his candidacy for Huntington Town Board.
Bento, 30, a Democrat, said he is looking to bring a “fresh, young voice” to the town board.
The pair of town board seats up for election in 2019 are currently held by Democrat Councilwoman Joan Cergol and Councilman Eugene Cook, an Independence Party member who last election also ran on the Republican ticket.
Bento said growing up he spent his summers at his grandparents’ home in Asharoken Village, and more recently the damaged Asharoken seawall was the “issue that really launched me into wanting to serve.”
“I found the seawall is symbolic of the overall crumbling infrastructure townwide,” Bento said in an interview Tuesday.
Bento earned his master’s degree in history from Queens College, and has previously worked as a constant for investment baking operations. He worked on six Democratic campaigns during the 2018 election cycle, and was elected last year to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee.
In addition to infrastructure upgrades, Bento said ethics reforms were needed at town hall.
“We need a fundamental change in how the town board does business,” Bento said. “We need to eliminate patronage jobs. Jobs should only be created out of necessity and merit.”
He also advocated the town restructure its process for awarding contracts to private companies.
“I think we need a more open and transparent bidding process for those contacts, and we need to find out which of them are not a necessity to the town,” Bento said.
As a Northport resident, Bento said he is aware of the potential impacts of LIPA’s tax challenge of the Northport Power Plant. He argued the town should “mandate LIPA goes back to the original agreement of being a productive member of the community,” including restoration of nearby beaches.
“We need to be a lot harsher and firmer with our terms of settlement,” Bento said. “There needs to be a net zero loss to the Northport-East Northport School District in any settlement.”
If elected, Bento pledged to become a “full-time councilman.”
“I won’t have any outside jobs or income because I don’t want any conflict of interest, and I want to be there 100 percent of the time for the citizens of Huntington.”
Cergol will run for a new four-year term in November, and a spokesman said she plans to formally announce her campaign for town council later in the year.
Cergol has served on the town board since December 2017, when she was appointed to the seat left vacant by Susan Berland’s resignation. Cergol won election last year to serve out the remaining year of Berland’s term.
Cook, who was first elected in 2011, said he hasn’t yet decided if he will run for a third term on the town board, and encouraged residents to let him know their opinions.
He said, “I’d like the people to let me know what they think; I’d like to hear from them.”