On the morning of June 17, George Pappas felt confident that he would win the election for Village of Atlantic Beach mayor over longtime incumbent Stephen Mahler.
“Just the people around, helping me, encouraging me, the support I received from neighbors,” was the reason Pappas gave for feeling positive on the day he defeated Mahler 391-325 for the two-year term.
Now, Pappas, a village resident for nearly 14 years who is the superintendent of Sanitary District 1, which collects the trash and recyclables in the Five Towns and neighboring communities, will become Atlantic Beach’s fifth mayor on July 14. Fred Lager served twice 1962-’88 & 1990-’92; John Faulhaber 1988-’90; Earliene Shipper 1992-’96 and Mahler 1996-’14.
Of the approximately 1,400 registered voters in the village 716 voted for mayor, which based on past elections this year’s turnout was much higher than usual.
Pappas is 44 and Mahler is 75, but Pappas views his victory — his first for public office — not as a changing of the generational guard, but as a village renewing its spirit. “There were so many wonderful people of all ages, seniors and others bringing a new energy to the village to get things done, to get things accomplished,” Pappas said.
To begin to get things done, Pappas said he is reaching out to the trustees to become more familiar with the inner workings of the village and is outlining a plan for his first 100 days. He said he wants to look into replacing the trees lost in Hurricane Sandy, establishing an improved relationship with the 4th Precinct and continuing what Mahler accomplished.
Hospitalized for a week earlier this month and in Mercy Acute Rehabilitation since June 5, Mahler said he directed his campaign through his cell phone.
Looking back on his 18 years in office, the mayor said he is proud that he fought for Atlantic Beach’s zoning independence, rebuilt an antiquated village hall, ensured that the existing marine recreational zone remained intact and that the village was kept on an even financial keel and received an AA+ bond rating from Standard & Poor’s.
“Our village is one of the best, there is nothing to fix,” Mahler said. “We have a great bond rating, keep a strict budget; we are as good as a small village could be.”
Noting that roadwork is expensive, Mahler said the village did repair as many roads as it could afford and he looked to create a year-round facility by marrying the physical fitness center with the existing tennis center which was damaged in Sandy. He hopes that plan comes to fruition.
Atlantic Beach is in line to for about $1 million in federal reimbursement for Sandy and that could help with the tennis center and repaving the roads. “[Public Works Superintendent] Steve Cherson does a fabulous job and he was way ahead of the curve documenting the damage,” said Mahler, who added he would like to apply his experience to help the new administration.
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