Former Riverhead school board president Angela DeVito has thrown her hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for Riverhead supervisor.
She’s not the only one seeking to challenge incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter.
Incumbent Republican Councilman James Wooten told the News-Review this week he plans to screen for the Republican nomination for supervisor against Mr. Walter, who will be running for a third two-year term this year.
“I do plan to screen for supervisor,” Mr. Wooten said.
Beyond that, he said, it would be up to what the Riverhead Republican Committee and the people want, adding he wouldn’t rule out a primary if he was not chosen by the committee as its supervisor candidate.
Ms. DeVito announced she’d be running for supervisor through news website RiverheadLocal.com.
“I looked at the current Town Board and its administration and I truly believe our town deserves a lot better,” Ms. DeVito told the News-Review after confirming the earlier press report. “I have many, many years of public sector service that I think will serve the citizens of this town better. I know how to work across the aisle, as they like to say, and get people to work with me. Not on everything, but I do get things done.”
Ms. DeVito says she’s thought about running for town office in the past but time constraints didn’t allow for it, as she had a full-time job and she had to look after her aging mother as well.
She has since retired from her position as Director of Workforce Development with the Long Island Building Trades Council and says she has more time now.
Asked specifically about Mr. Walter, who has been elected to two two-year terms, Mr. DeVito said, “Given the personalities and ambitions of the Town Board he had to work with, he hasn’t shown the leadership to step up and put that aside. It may just be that they are difficult to work with. They all want his job. It’s like a feeding frenzy.
“They can’t wait to diss each other.”
Ms. DeVito has been a member of the Riverhead Democratic Committee since 2005 and this year is a member of its executive board. She has told town Democratic leader Marge Acevedo of her desire to run for supervisor, and said she also will seek the Independence and Working Families lines.
The Working Families party traditionally backs Democratics, but the Independence party has backed both Republican and Democratic candidates in recent years.
Ms. DeVito said she will have to screen for the position, despite her familiarity with committee members already.
In addition to working with the Building Trades Council, Ms. DeVito also has worked as a director of Occupational Health and Safety for the state Public Employees Federation, and was associate director for the Long Island Occupational and Environmental Health Program at Stony Brook University.
Locally, she served on the Riverhead school board from 2006 to 2011 and was board president in the 2009-10 school year. She’s been active in the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association since 2002 and served as its president for several years as well.
Having served the public, while also working on the side of civics dealing with public boards, Ms. DeVito says it’s important that officials listen to the public and encourage public input, something she believs the current Town Board doesn’t always do, as some officials have referred to civic groups as “NIMBYs.” (Not in My Back Yard)
Asked why he plans to screen for supervisor, Mr. Wooten said, “I think I have a good handle on how government works and I have the ability to coordinate different groups and bring the community back to the table in order to gain consensus.”
He said he thinks that process, seems to be sometimes “contentious” now.
A retired town police officer, Mr. Wooten also screened for supervisor against Mr. Walter in 2011, but eventually dropped that bid and ran for his council seat, allowing Mr. Walter to go uncontested for the Republican supervisor nomination.
Mr. Wooten’s council seat is not up for reelection this fall.
Reached for comment on the potential candidates for the supervisor job, Mr. Walter said, “I like Angela DeVito. We have a good working relationship and she’s a very smart woman.”
As for Mr. Wooten running?
“I’m not surprised,” Mr. Walter said. “I’m running. I’ll be seeking the Conservative and Independence party lines as well as the Republican line, and if I’m not nominated by the Republican committee, I will run a primary. So, I’m running either way. My fate as town supervisor should be left to the voters of the town.”
Mr. Walter said what’s happening in Riverhead happens everywhere.
“I was at the Association of Towns convention recently and in talking to supervisors from other towns, they all have the same thing. Every Town Board member wants to be supervisor, every senator wants to be president, ever state senator wants to be governor. It’s the way it is, and it’s part of the job.”
Riverhead Republican Committee chairman John Galla said its still early in the process, as screenings aren’t usually held until April, but he said so far, Mr. Walter is the only person to formally request his party’s nomination for supervisor.
The screening process is open to everyone, he said, adding he will look forward to running a campaign against whomever the Democrats nominate.
Mr. Walter said that he fears if he is not reelected, the work he has accomplished at the Enterprise Park at Calverton and the subdivision being developed there could be undone by a different administration.
He said that the EPCAL subdivision will not be finished before his current term ends at the end of this year, and that he needs to be reelected to push that process forward so the town can start selling its land in Calverton and bringing in businesses and jobs.