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Town Board to once again consider extending supervisor term

Update (6 p.m.): Town officials voted Tuesday to schedule a public vote that would increased the supervisor term from 2 to 4 years. The hearing is set for the Dec. 17 Town Board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio cast the only vote against holding the hearing. The date of the vote has not been determined yet.

Original Story: Town officials will vote Tuesday to schedule a public vote that would increase the supervisor term from 2 to 4 years.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the two-year term is “a challenge” and asked the board to consider approving the resolution.

“Especially when you come in as a new supervisor, it takes time to meet with the department heads,” she said. “Basically the year goes by very quickly, and the second year, you’re almost running already.”

A four-year term, Ms. Jens-Smith said, allows more work to be done in Riverhead between election cycles.

A similar measure was voted down by voters in 2016 by 64 percent of the voters.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said she supported the local law when former supervisor Sean Walter requested the shift and her stance has not changed.

“I think it’s ridiculous to have a two-year supervisor term,” Ms. Kent said. “It’s very disruptive to the town’s projects … I think it’s the right thing for the town and it’s important for us to put all political differences aside.”

Councilman Jim Wooten said the topic has been discussed by council members three times during his 12 years on the board. He supports the change but is concerned the public will reject it once again.

Similarly, Councilman Tim Hubbard said believes the four-year term is necessary as a two-year term is simply “a learning curve.” In year’s past, he said, the public has proved they don’t support it.

Ms. Giglio did not support the local law. If the public does not support the decisions of the board, she said the two-year term is an opportunity to change the dynamic of it.

“When you get in and you do a good job, I think people recognize that and they give you another two years,” she said. “If they don’t like it, they can cut it off and go in a new direction.”

Ms. Giglio said she thinks the vote would be rejected again.

Last year, the same Town Board members voted 3-2 against putting a proposition on the November ballot to extend the term limits. Ms. Jens-Smith and Ms. Kent voted in favor.

Ms. Jens-Smith mentioned that Southold, Brookhaven, Huntington, Babylon, Islip and Smithtown all have four-year terms for supervisors. She said the public has rejected the increase because it’s often marked as a political issue.

“I don’t think it’s the party that’s in the seat, it’s the term in office and the time served,” she said.

If the board votes in favor of the term change, the public would vote on it during the next election. If the community approves the law, it would not take effect until 2021 and therefore would not apply to the newly elected supervisor, Yvette Aguiar.

In addition to 2016, when then-Supervisor Sean Walter pushed the four-year term, unsuccessfully, the proposal also was voted down by residents in 2007, when then-Supervisor Phil Cardinale backed the change.

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