Nearly three weeks after polls closed in the Oceanside Sanitation District No. 7 board of commissioners race, Joe Samoles was declared the winner on July 10.
Samoles defeated incumbent Tom Lanning and another challenger, Jordan Kaplan. Lanning had served on the board for five years, and Kaplan was on the ballot for the first time. Samoles, who worked in the district as a loader and driver from 1990 to 2015, ran for the second time after losing to current Commissioner Matthew Horowitz in 2017.
“I’m very happy,” said Samoles, 51. “. . . I feel bad for Tom and Jordan. I know I was devastated when I lost, and I only wish the best for them. I want to thank everyone who voted for me, and I hope I live up to everybody’s expectations.”
When the polls closed on June 20, Samoles had 586 votes and led Lanning (585) and Kaplan (388). Samoles was not immediately declared the winner because there were 71 affidavit ballots still to be counted. The ballots were cast by individuals not listed in the voting book as registered voters, but were eligible to vote because they claimed to live in the district, according to Commissioner Austin Graff.
The Board of Elections went through each ballot and determined which voters were truly residents and eligible to vote. A Nassau County Supreme Court judge then ruled that 32 of the 71 ballots were valid.
Samoles was declared the winner by eight votes, garnering 620, while Lanning finished with 612 and Kaplan collected 391. Amid district controversy over several lawsuits and claims of corruption, Samoles said he was excited to join Graff, Horowitz, John Mannone and Patrick Doherty on the board to help repair its reputation.
Lanning declined a request for comment, but conceded the election in a statement on his Facebook page on July 10. “I would like to thank everyone who supported me during this commitment to service over the past five years,” he wrote. “I would especially like to thank my wife (not a better one around) and kids for their support and accepting what I get involved with because it’s not always easy on them.”
Kaplan and his wife, Stacy Mandel Kaplan, released a joint statement on their Facebook pages after polls closed on June 20, thanking residents for their support. “It has been a pleasure walking through and meeting so many Oceansiders,” the statement read in part. “We hope that community activism will continue and that people will listen to, understand and respect one another and the issues. We still hope that together, Oceanside can be a positive place for all of us to live and raise our families.”
Samoles said he and the board had many goals, including repairing the roof of sanitation headquarters on Mott Street and installing solar panels. He said its members would also solicit businesses to use the district’s commercial garbage pickup services, and that they have contacted the Village of Valley Stream about possibly using its transfer station to save on fuel and insurance costs. Samoles added that because he works closely with autistic adults in his regular jobs at Hand in Hand Family Service, in Brooklyn, and the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, he would like to hire an autistic adult to work in the department, doing such tasks as watering the grass and sweeping the garages.
Samoles was sworn into his position at the July 11 meeting of the commissioners. Graff was also named chairman of the board, and Mannone went from sole chairman to co-chairman. The board members were vocal in their support of Samoles during the race, and Graff said he was pleased with the results.
“I’m happy that the election is over,” he said. “Joe brings a layer of experience that none of us have being a former employee, and he brings insight into how it is to be an employee in the district.”
Graff said the board was working on strengthening its code of ethics, to increase transparency about conflicts of interest among commissioners and employees. He noted that it would also consider adding a rule about being transparent with campaign financial disclosures. In addition, the board permitted counsel to draft a request to solicit proposals for a new roof and solar panels at sanitation headquarters. He said that the roof is needed, but the panels will depend on the price.
The board will have a special meeting on July 29 to discuss insurance. Its next regular meeting is Aug. 2.
“I see us working in harmony,” Samoles said. “They’re a bunch of good guys, and we’re going to get sanitation back on the right track.”