Town Council candidates make their pitch

Riverhead Town Council candidates (clockwise from top left) Matt Van Glad, Marlando Williams, James Wooten, George Gabrielsen and Ruth Pollack.

James Wooten (Republican)

Four-year incumbent councilman from downtown Riverhead

Occupation: retired Riverhead police officer, former Riverhead PBA president

His pitch: Mr. Wooten’s “driving force” is to serve the public, he says, and that means “not being a ‘dictator,’ but someone who listens to the complaints of his constituents and smooths the way to help them.” During his first term in office, he introduced legislation that forced utility companies to remove hundreds of damaged telephone poles throughout the town and has been pushing to get the town’s dog shelter into private hands. He also is drafting legislation to establish dog parks in Riverhead. “As a councilman your job is to do more listening than talking,” he says. Mr. Wooten has pushed for the town to condemn blighted and vacant properties on East Main Street and to clear them for community space.

George Gabrielsen (Republican)

Jamesport resident completing partial term after taking office in November 2009

Occupation: farmer; owns Gabrielsen’s Country Plant Farm in Jamesport

His pitch: Mr. Gabrielsen says he brings “a good dose of common sense” to the Town Board. “The town is moving in a positive direction, and I want to see it keep moving,” he says, “I want to see EPCAL finished and downtown back.” He says he’s worked “hands on” with his own equipment to help the town with flooding problems in 2010 and then during Hurricane Irene. He also helped negotiate a four-year contract between the town and the CSEA, the union that represents most non-police town employees. That deal calls for no raises over the next two years, and then 1 percent raises in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2015. “I worked it out with them,” he said of the contract. “And also led by example and took a five-percent pay cut.”

Matt Van Glad (Democrat)

Riverhead resident of 20 years, involved in community theater

Occupation: truck driver, Quogue Sinclair Fuel

His pitch: Says Riverhead residents must “speak up before our town is taken over by outside interests that might just destroy our quality of life for their own financial gain and benefit.” Has spoken often on the campaign trail about bringing “good-neighbor” jobs that are high paying and don’t run interference on quality-of-life issues. He thinks Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency could be doing more to bring such jobs to Riverhead. To do so, he says “we need a discussion with the civic groups, governments and businesses to make sure we are all on the same page.” He says he would also work to help ensure town roadways are safer and easier for seniors to navigate.

Marlando Williams (Democrat)

Calverton resident moved here in 2007; has been active in civic and community watch groups locally

Occupation: retired New York State trooper; former director of NYC-based law enforcement and private security union

His pitch: He says the town’s growth has “been astonishing” since he moved here from Middle Island some five years ago, and that while he wants his children to grow up here, he fears the town’s taxes are rising too fast for young people and seniors. “We want to remain affordable,” he says of the town. And the town’s growth, he says, also means its workforce is stretched thin. He said he wants to support the police and highway departments “in all ways possible,” even if there is no money in the budget to beef up their staffs.

Ruth Pollack (Riverhead First)

Wading River resident and artist; paints portraits and landscapes

Occupation: attorney

Speaks often of being a fourth generation Riverhead resident whose relatives before her worked on duck farms and in cranberry fields. She is part Polish, and “has a great bond with Polish Town,” which she calls “a prideful part of our town that is suffering very much, economically.” She also talks often about protecting the environment. “I’ve become increasingly distressed with the environmental problems,” she says. “This is a very fragile place.” She believes that as a trial lawyer, her experience getting jury members to agree with one another will help her “bring people together for a consensus.”

Other candidates for town offices:
Diane Wilhelm (D) for town clerk; Paul Leszczynski (R), Mason Haas (R), Robert Svoboda (D) and Evan Philcox (D) for assessor; Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn (R) for receiver of taxes; Richard Ehlers (R) for town justice.