01/02/14 1:00pm
01/02/2014 1:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Police Officer Dennis Cavanagh helps lead the annual ‘Say No to Drugs’ March with Pulaski Street students in 2012.

On a cold night last February, longtime Riverhead police officer Dennis Cavanagh was doing what he always does: answering a call.

A woman was experiencing chest pain and Mr. Cavanagh, a CPR instructor, came to the scene near Riverhead Fire Department headquarters to see if he could help.

Moments after the ambulance left, Mr. Cavanagh heard the gunshots: “ ‘Pop pop pop pop pop pop’ coming from the Third Street area south of us,” he recalled shortly after the incident.

Just a few minutes later, with the help of a fellow officer, Mr. Cavanagh had tracked down and nabbed the four people who had allegedly fired seven shots through a Third Street home in a drive-by shooting. One of the men had already reloaded his gun, police said.

The swift arrest, coupled with his illustrious 27-year career on the force, is why Mr. Cavanagh is our choice for Public Servant of the Year.

Mr. Cavanagh has served his community as the sole member of the department’s highway patrol and is a key leader in training other officers. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1970s, left the service in 1982 and was hired by the town soon after. He’s been patrolling the streets ever since.

“I guess I always had it in me to be a cop,” he said in an interview last year. “I never regret working here. I always loved this job.”

Police Chief David Hegermiller, who was Mr. Cavanagh’s training officer when he was first hired, said the veteran’s calm demeanor makes him a great representative for the force.

“Dennis is very charismatic,” Chief Hegermiller said. “He deals with people very well.”

Mr. Cavanagh also deals with other officers well; he has served as a police trainer within the department for nearly a decade.

“The training keeps you current, keeps it fresh in your mind,” Chief Hegermiller said.

Mr. Cavanagh relied on that training while arresting the drive-by suspects last year. He noted that the manner in which the group was apprehended — on a felony traffic stop as opposed to a routine stop — is something the department trains on time and again.

Mr. Cavanagh got all four people — later identified by authorities as Jasmine Parsons, 19, of Mastic; Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford; Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport; and Jeffrey Despeines, 21, of Centereach — out of the car. Mr. Despeines was armed with a loaded gun at the time of his arrest and shell casings were found inside the vehicle.

All but Mr. Despeines have pleaded guilty to their involvement in the incident, according to court records.

The arrest was a prime example of Mr. Cavanagh’s continued vigilance while serving his community, Chief Hegermiller said.

“It was great that he was down there and that he was able to respond,” the chief said. “Always to be out there and always to be aware … He did a great job.”

psquire@timesreview.com

12/29/13 2:30pm
12/29/2013 2:30 PM
FILE IMAGE | Who will be our 2013 Educator of the Year?

FILE IMAGE | Who will be our 2013 Public Servant of the Year?

The Riverhead News-Review will announced its Public Servant of the Year in its Jan. 2, 2014 issue.

Here is a list of people that have won the award since 2000:

• 2012 — Ed Romaine

• 2011 — George “Gio” Woodson

• 2010 — Robert Brown

• 2009 — Barbara Grattan

• 2008 — Liz Strokes

• 2007 — Michael Reichel

• 2006 — Gary Pendzick

• 2005 — The Riverhead Ambulance Corps

• 2004 — Richard Wines

• 2003 — Ken Testa

• 2002 — “KeySpan Coalition”

• 2001 — Ed Densieski

• 2000 — Judge Richard Ehlers

01/04/13 10:00am
01/04/2013 10:00 AM
North Fork, Riverhead, Southold,Ed Romaine, Person of the Year 2012

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Former North Fork county Legislator Ed Romaine.

2012’s Public Servant of the Year for both The Suffolk Times and the Riverhead News-Review is someone who represented both Southold and Riverhead towns over the past seven years, but who won’t be representing either in 2013.

Ed Romaine, who was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in November, is our choice for Public Servant of the Year for his work as the North Fork’s representative in the Suffolk County Legislature from 2006 to 2012.

And a lot of people agree.

“I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving of this than Ed,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. “As supervisor, I have worked with Ed on issues ranging from stormwater mitigation to erosion control to farmland preservation. Ed has been our go-to guy on just about any issue. He’s tireless. He’s got an institutional knowledge. He’s one of those guys that just tries to make a difference every day in as nonpartisan a fashion as possible.”

“He is probably one of the few remaining true statesmen that we have left in the county,” said Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area of Riverhead. “He works across party lines, he understands the importance of community and he understands the importance of representing his constituents without concern for party affiliation or party line.”

At the request of the Reeves Park community, Mr. Romaine worked to get the county to acquire a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, where a shopping center had been proposed, in order to make a 9-11 Memorial there. At least two families in Reeves Park lost loved ones on Sept. 11.

“He took our cause right up to the end, at his last county legislative meeting,” when the acquisition was finally approved, Mr. Biegler said. “I couldn’t think of a better person for this award. We are sorry he is going over to Brookhaven.”

In the Legislature, Mr. Romaine and South Fork representative Jay Schneiderman were consistently outnumbered 16-2 by West End legislators.

Now it’s 16 to 1, said Mr. Schneiderman, who not only fought alongside Mr. Romaine on bills to benefit the East End, but also knew him before he entered public office.

“He was my seventh grade social studies teacher in Hauppauge,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

“Ed has been a tremendous fighter for the people of the East End,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “He’s got a great record on the environment and, for the past eight years, he’s been a great partner of mine in protecting the interests of the East End.”

Mr. Schneiderman, who was elected to the Legislature as a Republican but switched his enrollment to the Independence party, said Mr. Romaine “puts party interests aside and works for the good of the people.”

“Ed Romaine is going to be sorely missed by the Town of Riverhead,” said Mason Haas, a town assessor who has worked with Mr. Romaine on the issue of getting the homeless sex offender trailers removed from county property in Riverside and Westhampton. “He’s been a friend and advocate for us.”

Other issues Mr. Romaine worked on include getting fire wells put in the pine barrens, helping people who lost their homes to flooding on Horton Avenue in Riverhead, acquiring the North Fork Preserve in Northville for parkland, getting weekend bus service on the East End and fighting the MTA payroll tax.

Mr. Romaine’s successor will be chosen in a Jan. 15 special election between Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Southold Councilman Al Krupski.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/28/11 12:01pm
12/28/2011 12:01 PM

ILLUSTRATION FILE IMAGE | Who will be our 2011 Public Servant of the Year?

The Riverhead News-Review will announced its Public Servant of the Year in its Jan. 5, 2012 issue.

Here is a list of people that have won the award in the past decade:

• 2010 — Robert Brown

• 2009 — Barbara Grattan

• 2008 — Liz Strokes

• 2007 — Michael Reichel

• 2006 — Gary Pendzick

• 2005 — The Riverhead Ambulance Corps

• 2004 — Richard Wines

• 2003 — Ken Testa

• 2002 — “KeySpan Coalition”

• 2001 — Ed Densieski

• 2000 — Judge Richard Ehlers