Regardless of which two candidates win on Tuesday, the Riverhead Town Board will see its first shake-up since 2010, since Councilman George Gabrielsen opted not to seek re-election.
The News-Review believes it’s time for a change and the candidates best equipped to help change the direction of the Town Board are challengers Timothy Hubbard and Laura Jens-Smith.
While Councilman James Wooten has served admirably during his eight years on the Town Board, we believe it’s time for him to step aside and let some new faces take a seat at the table.
Mr. Hubbard is no stranger to public service. A retired police officer who previously served on the Riverhead Board of Education, he knows the issues the town faces well, particularly for a challenger. During his time on the BOE and on the police force, he has seen the town at its best and worst, and has made beefing up code enforcement a large component of his campaign. His campaign ideas did tend to lack originality, but he at least appeared to have a good handle on the business of the board.
We liked the fact that during last week’s News-Review debate he broke from the Republican ranks to say the Town Board should have pierced the tax cap this year — a move the all-Republican board opted not to make, forcing them to pull once again from the town’s dwindling reserves.
Mr. Wooten has at times been an independent voice on the all-Republican Town Board — so much so that he didn’t even get nominated by the committee this May to keep his council seat. Among other elected officials who occasionally lose their cool, he keeps an even keel, is a good listener and always seems to be out and about in the community.
However, after eight years on the board his résumé lacks what Riverhead really needs. His biggest accomplishment is privatizing and attempting to move the sub-par animal shelter. That’s been a heavy lift, and is surely something to be proud of, but we just don’t see enough in him to justify another four years in office. While he says legislating is more than keeping a scorecard of your accomplishments, we still feel he should have more to brag about after eight years.
Neil Krupnick, as president of the Northville Beach Civic Association, took on — and, so far, has beaten — the billionaire oilman who planned to expand the refinery in his group’s neighborhood. Not too many people can say they’ve done that. It was a great example of democracy in action, as Mr. Krupnick represented his group admirably in front of elected officials, who, eventually, supported him. However, we think Mr. Krupnick is better suited in his current role as a civic leader than on the Town Board.
His knowledge of townwide issues seems rather shallow, and limited to Democratic talking points.
Ms. Jens-Smith, a Laurel resident who is actually president of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education, also has some catching up to do on the issues. She flatly admitted not knowing enough about the town’s justice court to answer a question about it, though promised she would research the issue and come to an educated decision if she were elected. Her honesty was a breath of fresh air to a degree; most other political candidates probably would have fudged their way through half a response that didn’t answer the question in the first place.
She deflects criticism well, has earned the trust of voters in the past and has put forward a few refreshing ideas while out on the campaign trail. Her proposal for alternative transportation to ease Riverhead’s clogged roads was the only original one among the four Town Board candidates during our debate. She was also the first to propose a moratorium on housing downtown, which is at least worth a discussion. And the idea of a tax credit for cleaning out a cesspool also sounds worth pursuing.
It’s time to see what a couple of new Town Board members can do. We believe those two people are Mr. Hubbard and Ms. Jens-Smith.