Guest Column: The case for John Dunleavy as Riverhead supervisor

I’m writing in support of my father, Councilman John Dunleavy, and his bid for Town supervisor. I take issue with your characterization of him in both your front-page article and your Aug. 3 editorial.

Ever since I was born my father has focused on more than just himself, always focusing to make sure life was filled with a focus on friends, family and community. My brother and I were raised alongside him at Police Athletic League events, American Heart Association CPR training classes and in-school police talks on safety. We spent countless nights doing our homework at the Riverhead Ambulance headquarters as he volunteered to keep residents safe. Throughout the holidays he would bring us to volunteer and ring the bell for the Salvation Army or serving food to the needy at the train station. His life has been marked with accomplishments benefiting others, none of which I would characterize as self-serving.

Forty-five years ago he moved to Riverhead to serve his community as a police officer. He ran for Town Councilman because he felt he could help the Town of Riverhead and he had a vision of how that could happen. He’s worked tirelessly for 12 years in a job that is supposed to be part-time. As his son I have witnessed firsthand the time commitment he’s made for the sake of all Riverhead residents. Our entire family has sacrificed and been part of his effort and we do it because we know how much he cares and how committed he is to making a difference.

My father is 76 years old and at his age finds himself in a portion of the American population that people either look down on or look up to. I choose, and challenge you, to look up. Asking him to “step-aside” and imply he should be put out to pasture like a cow that has given his last gallon of milk is insulting to all senior citizens and veterans. In a society that elected our oldest president in the history of the United States and where individuals are living longer and contributing more, I would hope the residents of the Town of Riverhead would encourage senior citizens to volunteer, to work, to run for office and not give up or give in to naysayers like this paper.

My father’s position on term limits wasn’t simply to keep him “relevant” but to give him an opportunity to keep working tirelessly to better the Town of Riverhead for its residents. Running for Town supervisor is the next logical step. He is not the first to seek the supervisor position after serving as a council member. Holding this position makes him a qualified and deserving candidate. I believe historically (not withstanding President Trump) the majority of our elected officials have come from closely held government positions.

The issue I have with your editorial and the open comments made by representatives of the Republican Party is that instead of concentrating on what the residents of Riverhead need and who is the most qualified candidate to represent them, you seem to be focused on the issue of term limits, which is of no consequence. In other words, you are creating “fake news.” Clearly, Sean Walter and the Republican Party want my father to retire. They want to treat him like an old man who has no more to give. Well, my father is not done and is not going to be forced into retirement “with grace and dignity” because Mr. Walter thinks it is what he should do. My father cares deeply for the Town of Riverhead and knows first-hand how his opponent, Mr. Walter, has come up short in fighting for the town during his tenure. John Dunleavy doesn’t need the backing of any political party to accomplish what he thinks is fair and right. From the day he’s been elected he has taken a bipartisan approach to further what’s in the best interests of the residents of Riverhead. Stating that he’s had his chance and what more could he possibly do is short-sighted. There is always more someone can do if they care and if given an opportunity.

Instead of focusing your attention on term limits and why you think his agenda is solely “self-serving,” I challenge you to ask Mr. Walter and Laura Jens-Smith to defend their platforms and answer to the voters. My father’s run for election will make their job harder and hold them accountable to the residents. If they want to earn one of the most expensive supervisor seats in Suffolk County then they should work for it. My father has pledged to reduce the supervisor salary because Riverhead is one of the most economically poor towns with the second most highly paid Town supervisor in Suffolk County. It doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is putting Riverhead first, fighting for better contracts, higher fees and more service charges for vendors and business that use your municipal services. Increasing revenues and the overall fiscal health of the Town is the key to keeping the Town of Riverhead relevant. This doesn’t sound like a self-serving platform to be running on. Working hard, feeling accomplished, keeping active physically and mentally, making a difference in the lives of others is what is in it for him.

My dad was elected and re-elected three times because time and again he has proven he can serve with grace, humility and dignity. He worked for and earned all those votes. Serving another term as Town supervisor will give him the opportunity to fight through the red tape and bad policy choices Mr. Walter has made over the years.

I am proud of all that he has accomplished and more proud of his desire to keep working for the Town. As long as he has the energy, the skills and the will, I will encourage him to keep chasing his dreams as he has taught me. He is a role model to everyone who has ever been told you can’t do that. He has re-invented his career numerous times and has shown no matter what age, what your background or education, if you do the work, try your best and not give up anything is achievable.

In politics it shouldn’t be about what’s in your best interest but what’s in the best interest of the voters. All my dad can do is try his best, share his message and hopefully demonstrate to the residents of Riverhead he has more to give. It will be up to them to choose to sign his petition, and if nominated, give him their vote. It is now up to the residents of Riverhead to determine if he should retire from politics — not this paper, the Republican Party or Mr. Walter.

Photo caption: John Dunleavy, center, seated next to Supervisor Sean Walter earlier this year. (Credit: file photo)

The author lives in Port Washington and is a 1988 graduate of Riverhead High School and proud former Riverhead resident.