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Supervisor Jens-Smith: ‘We all believe in Riverhead’

In trying to decide what to say at her inauguration speech Monday, newly sworn-in Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said she kept coming back to a 2014 commencement speech given by Naval Admiral William McRaven at the University of Texas at Austin.

In it, she said, he discussed the training for elite Navy SEALs, in which trainees can avoid the brutal conditioning by ringing a bell in the center of the compound. The admiral said they can surrender and walk away by ringing the bell, but “if you want to change the world, you can never give up,” Ms. Jens-Smith recalled.

“Two years ago, I ran for office,” she said, referring to her unsuccessful bid for town council in 2015. “Well, I didn’t succeed then, but I didn’t give up either. And today, I am proud and grateful to be standing here as the first woman supervisor in town history.”

Ms. Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Catherine Kent, both newly elected to the Riverhead Town Board in November, were both officially sworn into office Monday at a ceremony at the Pulaski Street School that was attended by more than 500 people who braved freezing temperatures.

Also sworn in were three incumbents who were re-elected to new terms in November: Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, Highway Superintendent George ‘Gio’ Woodson, and Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.

Ms. Jens-Smith also quoted the admiral by saying that to truly effect change, “you cannot do it alone.”

“I believe in Riverhead, and all those standing before you here, we all believe in Riverhead,” she said. “We truly want to make our town better, and we all need to help each other and work together … to move Riverhead forward, you can be sure that we will never ring that bell.”

The election of Ms. Jens-Smith and Ms. Kent gives what had been an all-Republican board its first two Democrats since 2009.

In interviews afterward, Ms. Jens-Smith, Ms. Kent and Ms. Giglio — a Republican — all said they believe this board will work together.

“I think it’s great,” Ms. Giglio said of the new board. “I think change is always good and I think we will work well together for the better of the people of the Town of Riverhead. It’s important that we do all work together because we are on the path toward several good things are happening within the town right now, and I hope that path continues.”

“It’s a big job and I’m excited about it,” Ms. Kent said. “I feel I’m ready. The other council members have been great and I think we’re going to work well together.”

Ms. Jens-Smith echoed those thoughts.

“We campaigned on a lot of issues and we want to get started on all of the issues we campaigned on,” she said in an interview. “I think we will work well together. I’ve been going to the meetings for so long so I definitely have a relationship with the other town board members already and I look forward to making that even stronger.”

She said preparing for the Jan. 17 “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing on the possible $40 million sale of more than 1,000 acres of town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton will be one of the first issues the new board will take up.

The inauguration ceremony included performances by the Riverhead High School ROTC, Riverhead High School student Hailey Nitti, who sang the National Anthem, the First Baptist Church of Riverhead Choir, which said two songs, and students from Ms. Kent’s last class she taught at the Riley Avenue Elementary School before retiring, who sang “You Raise Me Up.”

Rev. Cynthia Liggon, the assistant pastor at First Baptist, was the master of ceremonies, and Rev. Mary Cooper from the House of Praise Christian Revival Center read the invocation.

Photo caption: Laura Jens-Smith is sworn in Monday as Riverhead Town Supervisor. (Credit: Sascha Rosin)

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