If first-term Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter truly believes he is the best man for the town’s top job, and that he has the vision, drive and intellect to do great things for Riverhead, then he should take care not to sabotage himself. Everybody will lose if he’s ousted after just one term — and that’s a growing possibility right now.
It appears most of Mr. Walter’s political problems — the latest was the announcement by Councilman James Wooten that he would challenge him for the Republican nomination for supervisor — stem not so much from decisions being made in Town Hall, but from Mr. Walter’s personal style as those decisions are reached.
Since he took office in January 2009, every council member has said publicly on separate occasions they’ve either been threatened by the supervisor, felt threatened by the supervisor or seen the supervisor threaten other board members
On Monday, second-term Councilman John Dunleavy said Mr. Walter had “used threatening words” against him as recently as last week. In the same interview with the News-Review, Mr. Dunleavy questioned the supervisor’s leadership skills and attributed his failings in that area to “immaturity.”
The supervisor says he just raises his voice a bit when he’s fired up. But it’s clear others feel differently. Mr. Walter should take heed and make some personal adjustments.
Mr. Walter blamed the Wooten uprising not on a personality clash, but on party politics and people “wreaking havoc” behind the scenes in the Republican Committee. The question Mr. Walter should be asking himself and others about that is, “Why?”
Maybe he’ll find that tension within the party stems not so much from competing factions but problems with his management style. Either way, it’s clear a change would help town government work better in the long run.
The all-Republican Town Board comprises starkly different personalities and political philosophies. A true leader would find a way to embrace those big personalities and all their ideas for the good of the people they serve. If his elected colleagues on the Town Board feel increasingly alienated, then Mr. Walter’s confident vision for Riverhead’s future could just fall apart.