The News-Review’s Civic Person of the Year award for 2011 goes to a person who loves Riverhead.
In fact, she’s the head of a group called “I Love Riverhead,” and runs the website iloveriverhead.com.
Jamesport resident Nancy Swett is also president of a marketing company called Great Peconic Communications, and the publisher of another website, called North Fork Parenting.
She started “I Love Riverhead” in 2009. Through its website and monthly meetings, the group aims to devise strategies to help revitalize downtown Riverhead, as well as to publicize businesses and events there on iloveriverhead.com and the group’s Facebook page.
It’s been called “part marketing campaign and part civic organization.”
“Nancy’s done a lot to energize the public to revitalize downtown and Riverhead in general,” said Lisa Jacobs, director of Riverhead Free Library. “I think she’s a positive force in Riverhead.”
The library and I Love Riverhead have co-sponsored a Downtown Riverhead Summer Photo Contest the past three years, Ms. Jacobs said.
“She’s a great motivator,” said Chris Kempner, Riverhead Town’s community development director and a past News-Review overall Person of the Year.
Ms. Swett has brought in speakers from areas like Patchogue and Oyster Bay to meet with her group, which serves as a sort of unofficial downtown civic association, about what those communities have done successfully, as well as what they can learn from Riverhead, said Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts.
“Nancy is doing what she’s doing because she loves Riverhead,” Ms. Snyder said. “She’s getting no financial rewards; she’s just doing it because she’s totally dedicated to the town.”
Ms. Snyder said Ms. Swett “has gathered a whole group of people that wouldn’t have gotten together otherwise.”
I Love Riverhead’s members have also been involved in other projects, such as the Rivers and Roots Community Garden.
“It’s nice to see that you don’t need to be an elected official or the owner of a large business to make a difference in the community,” Ms. Jacobs said. “You can do it simply by speaking up and getting others to contribute.”
“She’s an informational hub,” Ms. Kempner said of Ms. Swett. “She’s a community builder.”