For more than 15 years, Laurie Downs has attended nearly every Riverhead Board of Education meeting.
She is not an administrator, nor has she ever attended the meeting as an elected member of the board.
That’s about to change.
The longtime school board watchdog emerged from a pack of six candidates to secure one of two open three-year terms on the board. Incumbent Amelia Lantz was the top vote-getter with 1,305, just 88 more than Ms. Downs.
Another incumbent, Christopher Dorr, placed third and was elected to complete the unexpired term of former board member Lori Hulse.
“I finally won,” said Ms. Downs, who had sought the office several times before. “For 16 years, I’ve been grooming for it. I have more time here than any of the sitting administrators … The people spoke and I’m going to continue to call for open government and open transparency and I’m going to do my best.”
Riverhead wasn’t the only local district to see a challenger secure a seat on its board. In Shoreham-Wading River, longtime incumbent Richard Pluschau (621 votes) was edged out for a new three-year term by challengers Kimberly Roff (957) and Michael Lewis (792).
“It’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time,” Mr. Lewis said. “I’m looking forward to the next three years to really sink my teeth into the capital improvement bond.”
Both local districts also saw their 2016-17 budgets approved by voters Tuesday.
In Shoreham-Wading River, where administrators created a $72.6 million spending plan that nearly pierced the state property tax cap with a 5.24 percent tax levy increase, the budget was approved 855-455.
Retiring superintendent Steven Cohen called the approval of his final spending plan “wonderful.”
“It’s a very important budget and it’s gratifying to see the community support all our measures,” he said.
Riverhead’s $130.7 million proposal was also supported by a wide margin, with 1,635 voters in favor and 948 casting a vote against the proposal.
“I’m very appreciative to the community for passing the budget,” superintendent Nancy Carney said. “We worked very hard to be sure we presented a budget that was within the tax levy and a budget that will enable us to provide our students with the support and services they need with all the challenges that we’re faced with.”
Top Caption: Laurie Downs is congratulated on being elected to the Riverhead Board of Education. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
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