I read with a bit of a chuckle former Riverhead supervisor Vinny Villella’s column last week regarding Supervisor Sean Walter’s pay package and law practice. In outlining the supervisor’s compensation package, Mr. Villella got the numbers correct but other than that there were few facts in his missive.
Shall we say the rest of the column was an attempt to put a “high-gloss shine” on the story?
Yes, Mr. Walter does receive a pay package as outlined in town law. Mr. Villella received the same type of package, adjusted for inflation, when he was supervisor and so did Mr. Walter’s predecessor, Phil Cardinale. Mr. Villella rails against the fact that Mr. Walter still has his law office open in Wading River, yet I seem to remember that Mr. Cardinale kept his law office open in Jamesport during his 10 years in town government. Mr. Villella also calls Mr. Walter a “part-time supervisor.” Well, Mr. Walter has been town supervisor for 13 months and in that time we see the earliest buds of turning downtown around. One can hear circular saws and hammers at the Suffolk Theatre, while under Mr. Cardinale the theater was shuttered. The new Hyatt grows closer to reality daily. The former owner of the Frisky Oyster restaurant is developing a beautiful new restaurant in the old Chase building. The Red Collection sells antiques and furniture in the old Ben Franklin building. Dark Horse Restaurant is open for business and looking great. The planned Summerwind project will bring foot traffic to Main Street. A Long Ireland Brewing brewery and tasting room is coming to Polish Town. The Blue Door moved to Roanoke Avenue and a new eatery is going in its place. Cody’s barbecue restaurant moves in, replacing the eyesore that was Casa Rica. Athens Grill and Riverhead Grill have had impressive makeovers and all this has happened in this poor economy.
And reality is finally setting in at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, as the town has shed two of Mr. Cardinale’s pet projects — the Rechler housing deal and the mother of all bad ideas, the Riverhead Resorts project and its indoor ski mountain. The Town Board recently sowed the seeds for a reuse plan that will bring clean and high-paying technology-related jobs to EPCAL.
Working with the DEC, Mr. Walter successfully pushed through reform of the Wild Scenic Rivers Act that will allow commercial development on West Main Street. Mr. Walter stood by the courage of his convictions to make dramatic cutbacks and reduce the size of town government, something Mr. Cardinale said “needed to be done” but never had the political courage to do. Mr. Walter cut through the chatter and finally got the rail spur to Calverton. Mr. Walter fought off noisy helicopters over Riverhead, has taken the first steps to reform our animal shelter, got Wading River Creek dredged and, working with Suffolk County in a bad economy, he has preserved more farmland and open space than any 13-month period in the Cardinale or Villella administrations.
Whew! With that track record of results, if you want to wrongly call Mr. Walter a “part-time supervisor” give me a part-timer any time.
Mr. Pickersgill owns Robert James Salon & Spa in downtown Riverhead and is president of the downtown Business Improvement District management association.