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Riverhead Town supervisor term to remain two years

There will be no proposition on the November ballot asking Riverhead Town residents if they want to extend the term of the town supervisor from two years to four years.

In a vote that was split along political party lines, the Riverhead Town Board voted 3-2 against putting such a measure on the November ballot.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Catherine Kent, both Democrats, supported having the referendum.

Ms. Kent said she’s always supported a four-year term for supervisor.

“It allows more time to get things done,” she said.

Ms. Jens-Smith has said it allows for more continuity, and that it’s difficult to do long-term planning with a two-year term.

Councilmembers Jim Wooten, Tim Hubbard and Jodi Giglio, all Republicans, voted against the referendum.

Mr. Wooten and Mr. Hubbard both said they actually support a four-year term for supervisor, but oppose the referendum because town voters have overwhelmingly opposed it in the past.

The most recent was in 2016, when former supervisor Sean Walter, a Republican, unsuccessfully pushed for the four-year term, which was rejected by 64 percent of the voters in a referendum that year.

A similar proposal was voted down by residents in both 2005 and 2007, when then-supervisor Phil Cardinale, a Democrat, backed the change.

Mr. Wooten said town Democratic leader Marge Acevedo made good points in an Oct. 27, 2016 opinion column in the News-Review opposing the four-year term, when Mr. Walter proposed it.

Ellen Hoil of Riverhead spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Ms. Giglio also pointed out that voters rejected the four-year term by 64 percent in 2016. She said if she thought the supervisor was doing a good job, she’d “probably support it.”

The board also held a public hearing on the four-year term proposal Tuesday, prior to the vote.

Kathy Berezny, a former school board member, said officials knew what the term was when they ran, and voters have made their opinion clear on the issue in the past. She opposed the measure.

Ellen Hoil of Riverhead, an attorney and member of the town Democratic committee, supported the change, saying that with a two-year term, a supervisor has to immediately work on getting reelected once they take office.

“Two years is in no one’s best interest,” she said.

Linda Prizer, who is president of the Northville Beach Civic Association, supported the change. She said a lot of new residents have moved into the area since 2016.

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