Mayor, trustee, justice candidates speak to voters before the Village of Malverne's March 19 election

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Polls will be open for the Village of Malverne election on March 19.

Deputy Mayor Keith Corbett and lifelong Malvernite Lori Lang lead the slate for their respective parties as they run for mayor to replace outgoing Mayor Patti Ann McDonald, who announced in January that she would not seek a fourth term. In addition, two trustee seats and the village justice position are open. Corbett is part of the Independent Party, with trustee candidates Lauren Touchard, Tim Sullivan and village justice candidate James Frankie. Lang is with the Hometown Pride Party, with trustee candidates Rossana Weitekamp, Antony Pfeffer and village justice candidate Monica Coffey-Murray.

Voters had the chance to learn about candidates from both parties during Meet the Candidates Night, hosted by the Malverne Civic Association, on March 5. Here is a closer look at all of the candidates:

Race for mayor

Corbett is an attorney with the firm Harris Beach, in Uniondale. He has lived in the village for nearly a decade, was sworn in as a village trustee in 2014 and became deputy mayor in 2018. During his years on the board, he has worked alongside McDonald to renovate the downtown area and both Long Island Rail Road stations, and upgrade the infrastructure for drainage, parking and roads, among other projects.

“This election is going to decide if Malverne stays Malverne for the next decade, or if we recede away like other communities of our size have done over the years,” Corbett said. “There is a critical path that we must follow to ensure Malverne stays the beautiful, wonderful village that we love.”

Lang runs her own business, Simplify Home Organization & Design, in Malverne. She has also been involved with fundraisers and drives in the community since she was a teenager, when she became a member of the village youth board at age 14. Lang said she decided to run after residents approached her last year, urging her to make a push for mayor. Lang’s mother, Catherine Hunt, was the first female mayor in the village when she was elected in 1987, and was one of the founders of the Hometown Pride Party.

“It is my 23 years of professional experience in the business sector that will be an asset for the Village of Malverne,” Lang said. “The village board represents the residents — our tax dollars. Open and transparent government is needed, plain and simple.”

Trustee candidates

Touchard, who is running for re-election as trustee, grew up in the Westwood section, and has served as a village prosecutor. She is currently a liaison to village celebrations, the Tree and Beautification Committee and the Youth Board.

“I believe that my background as an attorney, my experience serving as one of the village’s prosecutors, and my time on the board have prepared me well continue to serve as your trustee and to address the challenges we currently face in Malverne,” Touchard said.

Sullivan is from a long line of Malvernites, and takes part in local community service, including his initiative to encourage veteran appreciation through the village’s annual Veterans Day celebration for the past seven years. He also works with Crossroads Farm on capital preservation and improvement projects.

“I’m running for trustee to maintain these close bonds with cherished institutions and other cooperative organizations, amazing experiences, beautiful landscapes, and celebrations of faith, family and friendships,” Sullivan said.

Weitekamp, who was the former editor of the Malverne/West Hempstead Herald, has been involved in the village through numerous groups, including the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps, for which she trained and served as an Emergency Medical Technician for village residents for a decade. Weitekamp also served on MVAC’s board and as its secretary for seven years, and is a recipient of the American Legion’s EMT of the Year award.

“My 30-year professional career in public relations will be utilized to communicate with you to make sure you have a say in what goes on in your government and how your tax dollars are spent,” Weitekamp said. “We want to inspire the true spirit of volunteerism in people, because that’s what Malverne is all about.”

As an attorney for more than 20 years, Pfeffer has held positions on various internal management committees. Pfeffer also supports the Our Lady of Lourdes Men’s Club with his wife Sheila, who co-chairs the OLL Bazaar. If elected, he also hopes to increase the transparency of village government and raise awareness about its proceedings and projects among residents.

“I think that discussions and debates on issues of village-wide input should be done during the monthly televised meetings to greatest extent possible,” Pfeffer said, who added that all votes would be made during monthly public meetings, if elected. “If I’m unwilling to vote for something in front of your face, I shouldn’t do it behind your back. Every vote I take will be solely in the best interest of the village and its residents.”

Candidates for village justice

Frankie, who is running for re-election as village justice, has served residents for more than 30 years as an attorney, prosecutor and a volunteer on the Malverne Code Review and Cable Television committees.

“Village justice is a position I’ve taken very seriously,” Frankie said. “As your village justice for the past seven years, it has been my goal to operate the court in a manner that is fair and respectful to the people who appear before us. I believe we have achieved that goal, and I believe that we do it each and every day.”

Coffey-Murray now runs her own practice in the village, specializing in litigation and real estate law. If elected, Coffey-Murray said she hopes to expand on the village’s efforts to make the court “user-friendly.”

“I will ensure that the court is fiscally responsible and that it meets the needs of all it serves,” Coffey-Murray said. “Although village justice is a part-time job, I’m often reminded of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s outlook that there is no shortcuts in doing a good job.”

Questions from residents

One of the questions proposed by residents focused on how the conditions of the roads in the village have been handled. The Malverne village board started a five-year plan to improve roads in 2016, but utility projects have delayed the work.

“I’m proud to say that the roadway management plan that was referenced by some of our opposing candidates was put into effect to fix 80 percent of the roads in Malverne in a five-year period, [with] the first three years being fully funded already,” Corbett said. “I will start a war with the utilities like you’ve never seen [and] if needed, we’ll bring federal court in action for destruction of public property.”

Lang said that the roads have been neglected for the past 12 years. She said that after reviewing the village’s current plans, she believes that there should be an updated engineering plan, along with a roadway communications plan to collect data from residents.

“Our roads have deteriorated to even worse shape than in 2016 when the study was conducted,” Lang said. “I will be the full-time mayor this village needs to the get our roads repaved as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Residents were also concerned on the village board’s acquisition of a $5.6-million bond. Proceeds from the village’s serial bond will go towards the continuation of the roadway improvement program, funding for a new police headquarters and replacement of a ladder truck for the fire department. While the village board shared a public notice in the Herald on its purchase last year, residents were concerned with the level of transparency on the bond.

“The fact of the matter is, we can do more than what the law requires,” Corbett said. “We need to communicate better.” He added that if elected, he would establish a survey for residents to get feedback on the best ways they would like for the board to communicate with them.

For Lang, residents asked if there would be a conflict of interest if elected since her husband serves in the village’s police department. Lang said that she spoke with three municipal lawyers about this, in which they all advised her that this is very common in village government for two reasons, “You must be a resident to run for office in your village, and you must also be a resident to be hired as an employee for any department in the village.”

“I would never have decided to run if I was advised — by experts in this field — that I could or should not,” she continued. “I did my due diligence, and I decided to go for it with my husband’s full support.”