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Riverhead Dems to run all-female slate in November election

Riverhead Democrats will run an all-woman slate in this November’s elections, nominating incumbent Laura Jens-Smith for supervisor and challengers Patricia Snyder and Diane Tucci for council.

Both Ms. Snyder and Ms. Tucci are well known in the community.

Ms. Snyder is the former executive director of the East End Arts Council, a position she held for 23 years, retiring last fall. She said that in that role, she managed $1.2 million in capital improvement projects for the town, and initiated programs such as the Mosaic Street Painting, the Annual Teeny Awards, JumpstART, Holiday Window decorating, Downtown Dance Party and The Suffolk Theater marquee unveiling.

“I have worked with every level of government and every political party on the East End,” she said. “I have stayed apolitical. My focus is working for the community.”

She is currently a member of the town’s downtown revitalization committee, and is chair of Suffolk County’s Arts Advisory Board, and is a past member of the Riverhead Rotary and Chamber of Commerce. She has lived in Riverhead for 30 years and has two grown kids, she said.

Ms. Tucci is the former executive director of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, and is currently the executive director of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce. She was one of the organizers of the popular Alive on 25 event in downtown Riverhead, as well as the BIDMA’s Halloween Festival.

She also owns a marketing company in downtown Riverhead and is a member of the town’s downtown revitalization committee.

“I want to see a town that is vibrant and has opportunity for our kids to be able to afford the houses, so they don’t have to move out, like I did,” she said.

A single mother of three children, Ms. Tucci said she grew up in Riverhead but moved out of the town for about 20 years, and moved back after she was divorced. She said she stepped down from the BIDMA post “because I felt there was something bigger for me to do.”

The town Democratic committee announced its selections Tuesday night at the Polish Town Civic Association headquarters.

In addition to its Town Board candidates, the committee selected incumbent Diane Wilhelm for town clerk and challengers Tara Taylor and Jaraby Thomas for the two assessor positions up for re-election.

Ms. Wilhelm, seeking her fifth term, is running unopposed, as the Republicans did not run a town clerk candidate.

Likewise, the Democrats will not run or endorse a candidate for tax receiver, leaving Republican incumbent Laurie Zaneski unopposed.

The Democrats also did not run a candidate to oppose incumbent Town Justice Lori Hulse, who is running on the Republican line.

Ms. Jens-Smith, who was first elected in 2017, said she has a balanced budget this year, the town has settled both police contracts after over two years, and got the unions to pay more into their health care contributions.

During her term, she said, the town has increased transparency by televising all town meetings live, it has increased technology to make the town more efficiently, it increased code enforcement and it has adopted apprentice requirements on town projects, which had been discussed and not implemented for more than 10 years.

“That supports the younger people in our community who are looking to get into a trade,” she said, adding that they will have a job “that will sustain them for life” and enable them to stay in the town.

Ms. Taylor, of Riverhead, has a master of business administration degree with a concentration in accounting from St. Joseph’s College. She earned an associate degree in accounting from Suffolk County Community College. She is a bookkeeper and accountant and has served as a rape crisis counselor for Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County.

Ms. Thomas, of Wading River, has been a teaching assistant since 2005 and in 2013 became a library media specialist assistant for the Riverhead School District. She is also a part-time business administrator at Landmark Realty of Long Island and Cyber Display Systems in Wading River. She has a master’s in neuropsychology and education and a business degree in business administration. A native of Panama, she speaks fluent Spanish and worked as a translator and a tutor advocate for Eastern Suffolk BOCES.

While Ms. Jens-Smith, a Laurel resident, is Riverhead’s first female supervisor, this fall’s election will be the first in which both parties run female supervisor candidates, as the Republicans nominated political newcomer Yvette Aguiar, a retired New York City police sergeant, for supervisor.

The Republicans on Feb. 11 also nominated incumbent Tim Hubbard and challenger Frank Beyrodt for council and incumbents Laurie Zaneski for tax receiver, Lori Hulse for town justice, and Mason Haas for assessor. Incumbent assessor Paul Leszczynski decided not to seek re-election after 19 years in office, and the Republicans nominated political newcomer Meredith Lipinsky for that post.

Photo caption: From left, Laura Jens-Smith, Diane Tucci, Diane Wilhelm, Tara Taylor, Pat Snyder and Jaraby Thomas. (Tim Gannon photo)