Word that former Riverhead Town Supervisor Joe Janoski died Saturday at the age of 68 did not catch us entirely by surprise. He had been in declining health in recent years, and his premature retirement in 1995 came following a series of well-publicized heart attacks suffered while in office.
Still, this passing comes far too soon for a man whose tenure in Town Hall was distinguished by a quiet-yet-determined brand of leadership and, when appropriate, and impish sense of humor. We didn’t always agree with Joe Janoski — and, in fact, we probably endorsed his opponent more often than not — but the lines of communication always remained open and he never stooped to the “enemies list” mentality that has plagued some other administrations. He was the kind of guy who might offer to buy you a beer (or a Diet Coke) at The Rendezvous even though you differed with him in an opinion piece earlier that same week.
And, as chronicled by some of his former colleagues in the obituary on page 3 of this week’s News-Review, Joe Janoski was around for some very significant developments — no pun intended — in Riverhead’s recent history, most notably the coming of the Tanger Factory Outlet Center and the Calverton Enterprise Park. The benefits of that second “coming” have yet to be fully realized, but clearly Riverhead’s economic health did not suffer during The Janoski Years.
Those of us who knew Joe Janoski have good reason to mourn his passing. And those who did not know him but who live in the town he loved and helped shape in his 15 years as town supervisor have reason to thank him.