Walter: Road less traveled will return Riverhead to glory

JOHN NEELY PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (center) signs the official town register as his father Michael E. Walter (left) and Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm (right) look on.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter was sworn in for his second term Monday.

Read the complete transcript from his inauguration speech below:

Thank you and Happy New Year.

I want to thank all of you for being here today.

A new year brings us renewal, a new beginning, a new dawn and hope for the future. The last two years has been very interesting, very productive and full of hope.

I am asked all the time why is it that Riverhead is prosperous even in a terrible economy. My response is because we are positive and we are focused. Focused on a balanced budget…focused on a revitalized downtown… focused on making EPCAL an economic engine for the town as well as the region.

But there is more to the story then just focus. There is a reason which is much larger than you and I. The reason can be summed up in the first Psalm “The way of the Righteous and the way of the ungodly.”

Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornfull;

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he mediates the night.

He shall be like the a tree planted by the rivers of water,

That brings forth its fruit in its season,

Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so,

But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Happy or fulfilled is the man or women who knows how to discern the counsel of the ungodly. There is no shortage of bad ideas, advice and theories concerning the problems of the town.

The righteous man knows where to seek godly counsel. The righteous man is not afraid to take the road less travelled. The righteous man delights in the law of the Lord.

The righteous man is blessed like the tree planted by the rivers of water. A tree that is strong and stable, sinking its roots down deep. The life of the righteous is marked by strength and stability. The fruit comes naturally from this tree because it is planted by the rivers of water. We the people of Riverhead are a righteous and patient people

Some get discouraged when they begin to walk as a righteous man and the fruit is not immediately evident. All too often in our society we look for the instant gratification, the new car, the new house and for some the drive for instant gratification consumes them. The town board cannot and will not look for this instant gratification in terms of the redevelopment of EPCAL, or revitalization of Main Street.

We must take the road less travelled in order for the entire town to return to the greatness we once enjoyed. A greatness when Grumman was flying A-6’s and then F-14’s over our beloved town. A greatness when you could shop on Main Street while the kids enjoyed a movie at the Suffolk Theater. A greatness when the revenue the town received covered our basic expenses.

My commitment to the town is that I will not make decisions for political expediency…decisions that provide for nothing more then instant gratification. We deserve more, the town deserves more. We have planted the seeds which will bear us great fruit and our leaves will not wither. Even in tough economic circumstances this town is prospering and will continue to prosper.

Often it may seem that evil seems to flourish and bad things happen in this town but they are fleeting and they are like chaff that the winds will drive away. The righteous will prevail and this town will prevail and grow to become a beacon of light to all that wish to come. For we cannot and I will not entertain bad ideas for the redevelopment of EPCAL or Main Street.  Nor can we tear this town down through our conversations or actions.

When I took this oath two years ago it was on a cold day in the historic Vail Leavitt Theater.

On that day, in that historic building, I laid out simple, yet, difficult tasks, I said that we would begin to rebuild our downtown, we would preserve our town’s rural character, we would get our house in financial order and we would begin to develop the bounty we were given at Calverton. Two short years later I am happy to say we have planted the seeds that will bear us great fruit.

I wanted to come to this place today because it is from this vista, looking at this river, that in many ways we can touch our rich heritage and also the future of Riverhead. We can see our roots sunk deeply into the riverbed. We can see a downtown whose leaves have not withered but are green and alive.

We as Americans have always set sail. Whether it was for the moon, the stars, the American dream, in search of freedom, the fight for equality or to expand our nation. We as a people have always been ready to march, to sail and to dream. Imagine the earliest settlers of our town as they came up this river and saw this magnificent body of water and sleek land and knew this had to be home—and– they named this place “Riverhead”…because the river renews us, sustains us and enriches us.

Those earliest of our citizens knew the road would be difficult, that our town wouldn’t be built overnight, but, they threw down their markers and they began to build the place we love and call home. They knew it wouldn’t be done in a day…but it would be done.

They built the Vail Leavitt, they laid the cornerstones of the structures downtown, they farmed the land, they made our quaint hamlets, built our churches, synagogues and schools. They gave meaning to our community. It took hard work and righteous confidence. It was the road less traveled, but wave after wave they came to gave us a good home.

This afternoon we sit in a great structure that many felt could never be built. When this building was first discussed, marble floors and cut glass lighting fixtures seemed a bit fancy for Riverhead…heck an elevator seemed impossible, but, two men had a dream …and will… and a vision… and they built this grand hotel. Peek out through the atrium across the hall. Look down Main Street; even in this challenging economy you see signs of life… as restaurants and shops and businesses spring up like  crocuses in our re-emerging downtown.

In two short years we have flattened the land, and housing will rise, at the “Summerwind,” we have redone Grangebel Park, we’ve begun to fix the sidewalks and plant trees. There are concerts and art shows and music and laughter–baby strollers and butterflies, fireworks and fun on our river.

There was a dream of two women to build a community garden …when they were told it couldn’t be done….they did it anyway and has become a beacon of light on West Main Street.

Two years ago, Riverhead moving forward seemed impossible, but, because of the will and determination of good people, today, it is a given. Downtown is on a march towards renewal and like the earliest settlers before us… we know it won’t be done in a day…but it will be done.

And on a personal note, we know, by the grace of God and with the loving spirit of our friend Jim Bissett, it will not only be done but it will be done again and again because it was with his indomitable determination that this beacon of light emerged as the Long Island Aquarium and Convention Center.  We will continue to make this town what it is meant to be. We remember and keep him and his family in our prayers. We feel his presence today– and we always will …because big people with big dreams never leave us.

[moment of silence]

At our former Grumman property, Riverheaders built the A-6’s and F-14’s, protected our freedom and raced to the moon. Like any good builder would, we have gotten past the bad counsel and the pipe dreams– and have taken a moment to pause and reflect– to decide how best to develop a tax base, that will bring jobs and opportunity to our town and region. Like our first settlers we know this will not be done in a day…but it will be done.

In the fight to preserve our land there will be challenges ahead, we will not always agree on every proposal, like any town we will face difficult decisions on how to build our future, but we will be loving stewards of the land and forever keep Riverhead’s rural character. This will not be done in a day…but it will be done.

Local government is about choices and it is about serving our community and I have great partners in John Dunleavy, Jim Wooten, George Gabrielsen and Jodi Giglio. We are all of the same party, but that doesn’t make us all of the same mind, we are however all of the same dedication and at times we disagree… and we should…but we all love this town and want what is best for Riverhead and I look forward to working with each of you on the issues ahead.

I also want to acknowledge Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm, Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson, Assessors Laverne Tennenberg, Paul Leszczynski and Mason Haas, Tax Receiver Maryann Wowak-Heilbrunn, Justices Richard Ehlers and Allen Smith.

It is with these servants and God’s will that the good people of Riverhead have chosen us to govern and we all hope to be worthy of your trust and God’s grace.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said “just as life is actions and passions…so must a man participate in the actions and passions of his time…at the peril of being judged not to have lived.” Said another way “you need to be on the court to play the game….it cannot be played from the bleachers.”

Well we will live …and we will be of action….we will play the game. As we look down that river before us and we gaze upon the horizon, we don’t know what the waters will bring us. Yet, we seek to be cleansed by the ever changing waters because we know that if we listen to the quiet in the recesses of our heart God will bring us a plan for the future of Riverhead.

Together, those of us in government will do what we are chosen by you to do. We will Shepard this town towards a new future. We will build this place up and we will create a Riverhead that we are proud to pass to our children.

I want to I want to thank my wife Cathleen and our three children, Zachary, Timothy and Gregory. Being Supervisor is a way of life and it is a family affair. Without their love and support I would not be standing here today. I would also like to thank my father for his strength, advice and counsel that have shaped me into the man I am today. My only hope is that I may be there to provide my father with that same strength, advice and counsel as we deal with my mother’s recent illness.

Serving in public office isn’t always easy but when I feel the love and support of my family I realize that the journey for public office was one worth making.

I would also like to thank my Deputy Supervisor Jill Lewis for keeping me on the straight and narrow path and for her steady hand in leading the town. I would also like to thank Heidi Wold and Carol Sclafani first of all for putting up with me but most of all for keeping my life organized and sensible. I would like to thank Tara McLaughlin my Chief of Staff who has one of the most difficult jobs of keeping the employees of the town running like a well oiled machine.

It is also important to thank and acknowledge my Chairman John Galla and the entire Republican committee for his and their support for without the committee’s nomination I would not be here today.

Finally, I want to very personally thank Anthony Coates a man who loves his job working with me as much as I love being town supervisor. It is with his unfailing guidance that we have navigated the past two years to bring out all that is great in Riverhead. It is easy for me to look good when I am surrounded by great people.

I have said it before and I will say it again and again…everywhere we look there is much to be done and in life there are many people that say “no” –but we are the people that say “yes.” Let’s go to work for Riverhead.

May God bless you on this special day and may God bless Riverhead. Thank you.