As predisential and congressional candidates highlight the headlines this election season with hot button items such as tax breaks, the national debt, costly spending measures and more, Southold resident and current Trustee Mike Domino believes spending issues ring true all the way down to the local Trustee race, and points to a lifetime of work in the environmental sciences as one way he can earn the trust of taxpayers while staying committed to Southold's waterways.
Domino, 68, was appointed earlier this year to fill a vacancy left by current Councilwoman and former Trustee Jill Doherty. He is a retired high school science teacher of 31 years, owner of a local antique shop and deli, and past president of the North Fork Environmental Council.
Running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, Domino will be facing Democrat and local business owner Jeri Woodhouse, who recently touted her devotion to sustainable agriculture as one reason why she's seeking the seat. Woodhouse's business, A Taste of the North Fork – in the process of relocating to Southold – focuses on selling locally grown and made products.
Both will be running to complete Doherty's term.
But Domino says his scientific background makes him the right fit for the job.
"I respect my opponent, but she doesn't bring to the table the expertise I have in this area," Domino said Wednesday morning. "And especially in this day and age, you have to be careful about your money.
"If you want to keep the creeks open, clean and productive, you don't just barge in there and say you're going to solve the problem. You have to do research. Including DNA research to find out what the source of the problem is so that you can fix it as efficiently as possible with as few resources as possible. That's what my degree is in. So that's what I do. And that's what you need to do."
Domino, a former U.S. Marine who who holds a Bachelor's degree in biology and two Master's degrees – one in engineering and another in education – has been a Southold resident for the past 16 years after living in Shoreham during most of his tenure as a Rocky Point High School teacher.
The engineer in Domino comes out occasionally, drawing several diagrams during Wednesday's interview to illustrate various points.
"I'm the kind of guy who doesn't randomly mow his lawn," he half-joked. "What's the optimum way to do this?"
Looking back at what drew him to the outdoors, and the North Fork in general, the Middle Island native pointed to a building job he had as a teen that brought him out to the North Fork.
"From there, it was a natural progression," he said.
Domino served as a Boy Scout, recalls reading "Outdoor Life" and "Field and Stream" as a youth, and as a young teacher, served on the RPHS advisory committee when the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant was being built, advising the superintendent not to sign off on the project due to evacuation concerns.
"That was when I realized that you have to be a part of the process to have any impact," he said.
During his short tenure as Trustee, Domino said he's gained a greater respect for the responsibilities that come along with the position, as well as his peers on the board – all of whom are fellow Republicans. He points out though that with one Trustee absent from a recent meeting, the board split on its last vote of the meeting, so while all five men represent the same party, views do still differ.
Domino said the largest issue facing the Trustees is the town's efforts to curb stormwater management.
"It's not difficult to engineer a solution. The town needs to devote resources to the highway department," Domino said. "The problem again is this economy. You’ve got to prioritize. So it’s definitely something that we are devoting our energy to and it won’t be an overnight fix. But it’s solvable. We just can’t lose sight of the goal and get tired and give up. We gotta plug away."
Correction: The article originally stated that Domino was only running on the Republican line. We regret the oversight.