Riverhead voters face a difficult yet encouraging choice at the ballots in deciding among the candidates for Riverhead Town Board. The four candidates vying for two seats each bring a different area of expertise to the table. Business? Check. Education? Check. Farming? Check. Contract negotiations? Check.
The candidates — Democrats Catherine Kent and Michele Lynch and Republicans Jodi Giglio (incumbent) and Frank Beyrodt — all brought enthusiastic pitches to the campaign trail and appear to have the best interests of Riverhead at heart.
At least one newcomer will be elected to the Town Board because John Dunleavy reached his term limit as a town council member this year. He’s now hoping to gain votes as a write-in candidate for town supervisor after being kicked off the ballot last month under the Libertarian Party.
The remaining candidates, three of whom are making their first dive into politics, did not differ greatly on topics like EPCAL, downtown revitalization and the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency. But we’ve decided the best choices are Ms. Giglio and Mr. Beyrodt.
Ms. Giglio brings a wealth of knowledge to the Town Board, having served since 2010. She demonstrated a firm grasp of the issues facing the town and has never hesitated to express her opinion, even when it differs from that of Supervisor Sean Walter, a fellow Republican. Her expertise would be worth keeping on the Town Board for an additional four years, which would bring her to the 12-year term limit.
Mr. Beyrodt, who works for his wife’s family business, DeLea Sod Farm, would bring a new perspective and voice to the Town Board. His experience in farming, and advocating for farmland preservation as past president and board member of the Long Island Farm Bureau, is something that could always be beneficial in a town like Riverhead. He has experience traveling to Albany to advocate on behalf of local farmers. He also serves as an Island Harvest board member.
He described himself in his business role as a “fireman” — meaning he’s always putting out fires as a problem-solver who can think on his feet. Like the other candidates, he has deep ties to the community.
Specifically in dealing with EPCAL, the candidates all expressed skepticism about the pending deal with Luminati Aerospace. They all said they would oppose housing on the site. Ms. Giglio and Mr. Beyrodt both said they hope the deal can work in the end. Ms. Lynch said during an editorial board with the News-Review that the property should go out to bid again. Ms. Giglio pointed out that could not be done immediately and the town’s lawyers have advised that the town could be caught up in litigation, stalling any future deal, if it pulled the plug before seeing the process through. Ms. Kent argued that Town Board members should have been more skeptical of the deal as it progressed.
Ms. Giglio was right to say that the qualified and eligible sponsor hearing on the Luminati sale should have taken place before the election, a position Mr. Walter opposed. But she did try to reaffirm that the board is doing its due diligence in the process and she was hopeful that billionaire John Catsimatidis could deliver on the EPCAL property even if Luminati CEO Daniel Preston’s vision falls through.
Speaking about downtown Riverhead, Mr. Beyrodt described it as a “great opportunity” and said parking could be created at spaces on roads off Main Street. He said he hopes more can be done to add “some pizazz” to downtown. We would have liked to hear him expand on that with more specific ideas.
Ms. Kent and Ms. Lynch have both pointed to Riverhead’s empty downtown storefronts, but it’s unclear exactly how as board members they would help fill all those spots. As more people come to downtown, living in new spaces like the Riverview Lofts, the hope is it attracts more businesses.
The choices facing Riverhead voters are difficult, but whoever wins the two council seats will represent a positive outcome for the town.