Riverhead Town Councilman John Dunleavy, whose Town Board seat is set to be open after this year due term limits, is making a run for supervisor in November’s election, taking on taxes as his main concern.
A law adopted in 2016 set a term limit of 12 consecutive years for council members. Mr. Dunleavy reaches that benchmark this year, having served three four-year terms since he was first elected in 2005. While he has run as a Republican in the past, Mr. Dunleavy will vie for the top town position as a Libertarian, avoiding a primary race against current Supervisor Sean Walter, but he needs to petition to do so. He also challenges Democratic nominee Laura Jens-Smith.
“What’s making me run is that this town keeps putting money out of town and we don’t bring money into town and it’s not helping the taxpayers,” Mr. Dunleavy said in an interview Monday.
Mr. Dunleavy, 76, also said he thinks the supervisor position should have a reduced salary so that Riverhead is not “gouging our taxpayers.” He said if he’s supervisor the town wouldn’t have to pay for his retirement.
Mr. Dunleavy was the only council member to vote against last year’s resolution establishing the 12-year term limit. At the same time, he attempted to circumvent the term limits by proposing a separate measure that would have allowed him to serve through 2019. That measure was rejected by his four colleagues on the board.
A former Riverhead Police Department officer and investigator turned bank employee, Mr. Dunleavy said he wants to look further into the parameters of zoning that allows 300 units housing at the Enterprise Park at Calverton for employees of businesses operating there. He also said downtown Riverhead needs an “overseer” and that the town is losing out on money by not raising fees for parking fines there.
“If 85 percent of our accidents are out-of-towners, maybe we should have a little fewer people riding through our town,” he said. He said the town loses money to people from out-of-town who use Riverhead facilities, then leave.
“Riverhead should come first before anything else,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “It seems like we’re always on the losing end of something.”
Mr. Walter said Monday that Mr. Dunleavy’s run is not in the spirit of the term limits.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” he said. “I think the councilman had an opportunity to go out and retire with grace and dignity.”
Mr. Dunleavy said Monday he promised the Republican Party he would not primary against Mr. Walter. But Riverhead Republican Committee chairman Remy Bell said he was promised that Mr. Dunleavy would not challenge the current supervisor at all this spring before a golf outing where the councilman was honored for his time in public office.
“I would not have honored him at the golf outing if I knew what he was up to,” Mr. Bell said. “It’s a shame. We honor the man for his years of service and this is what he does. It’s not right.
“I don’t think he’s going to be successful in his efforts,” Mr. Bell continued. “It’s going to have more of an effect on his legacy than the election.”
File photo: Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy stood united at the 2013 GOP convention. Mr. Dunleavy (second from left) plans to run against him for the supervisor seat in November. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)