A familiar face has returned as president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.
Brad Bender, a former FRNCA president and Southampton Town councilman, has taken over the role previously occupied by Vince Taldone.
Mr. Taldone, the longtime president, will remain as a general board member, but will be moving from Flanders to Hampton Bays.
Mr. Bender was arrested in 2015 while serving as a councilman and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone as part of a $1.8 million scheme that involved a Riverhead physician assistant. He admitted in court to exchanging the oxycodone pills for cash and steroids.
Mr. Bender said his troubles started following a construction injury that led him to undergo multiple surgeries. He got hooked on painkiller opioids after that, he said. He’s now been out of prison for four years.
“I took responsibility for my actions and I’m a better man for it right now because of that,” Mr. Bender said.
He said he has been in a 12-step recovery program and acknowledges that he has an “addictive personality.”
Mr. Bender, who resigned as a councilman on the morning of his arrest in November 2015, was sentenced to two years in prison at United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg. His sentence was ultimately shorted by six months.
Prior to going to prison, Mr. Bender sold his house and shut down his construction business. He got divorced, and he put everything he wanted to keep in a storage unit, which he paid for upfront, he said.
Now, he has a house in Riverside.
Since returning from prison, Mr. Bender has been open about sharing his story. In 2018, he spoke at the Southampton Town Opioid Addiction Task Force forum.
Mr. Bender was voted as president at the Sept. 23 FRNCA meeting.
“He was a logical choice,” Mr. Taldone said of Mr. Bender taking over as president. “Some people might be surprised because of the whole thing with the drugs and jail. But he’s back now. If you believe in the land of the second chance, then why wouldn’t we, especially since he knows how to do this, and he’s done it before?”
Mr. Bender had previously spent four years as the FRNCA president before being elected to the Southampton Town Board. Mr. Taldone replaced him as president in 2011.
Mr. Taldone, a former New York City planner, opted to step down as he plans a move to the more walkable Hampton Bays since he cannot drive due to limited vision.
“Hampton Bays is relatively affordable, but it’s not cheap,” he said. “But it also has supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores, and restaurants on Main Street and it’s got sidewalks that people actually walk on, so you don’t look like a freak,” he said.
His current neighborhood in Flanders is not ideal for walking, he said.
“Even though we have a traffic light on the corner of Oak Avenue and Flanders Road, it’s still pretty threatening street to cross to get to the bus stop,” he said.