Councilman Jim Wooten and Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who will both leave office at the end of the year, were thanked for their service on the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday.
Mr. Wooten, who has served 12 years, was prevented from running for reelection due to town term limits.
Ms. Jens-Smith, on the other hand, lost her bid for reelection to Republican Yvette Aguiar after one two-year term.
Tuesday was the last formal Town Board meeting of the year.
“This is kind of a sad night for me because I’m going to be losing my councilmates on both sides of me,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent, who sat between Mr. Wooten and Ms. Jens-Smith at board meetings.
She said Mr. Wooten has given “a lifetime of service to our great town.”
His service began at Riverhead High School, where he was a cadet commander in the NJROTC, and continued with his 24 years with the Riverhead Police Department, during which he was twice named Police Benevolent Association Officer of the Year.
In 1999, Mr. Wooten won a statewide officer of the year award for his work with Neighborhood Watch groups, Ms. Kent said.
He was elected to the Town Board in November 2007, and began serving in January 2008.
“He took on many causes,” Ms. Kent said. “He has long advocated for the revitalization of downtown and supported the Business Improvement District.
Mr. Wooten, a Republican, joined with Ms. Jens-Smith and Ms. Kent, both Democrats, to support a pattern book to plan downtown, has advocated for and supported efforts to create community space along the Peconic riverfront, and has arranged and hosted many events downtown, Ms. Kent said.
Mr. Wooten also continues to be an advocate for animal welfare, she said, and helped the town contract with the North Fork Animal Welfare League to provide animal shelter and dog control services that led to a better quality of life for the animals.
Councilman Tim Hubbard said he and Mr. Wooten were town police officers for more than 20 years, and also grew up together.
He said Mr. Wooten was always willing to do extra for the community.
“This is just how he is; it’s in his blood,” Mr. Hubbard said.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she and Mr. Wooten “had our ups and downs” but that he always showed respect.
“It’s been a pleasure and an honor to serve with you,” Ms. Jens-Smith told Mr. Wooten. “You have such a love for this community and it shows in everything you do. Your 12 years on the board have been wonderful and you’ve made this town a better place.”
Mr. Wooten said after the meeting that he thinks his biggest accomplishment in office was privatizing the town’s animal shelter.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “Getting that out of the town’s hands was the best thing for the animals.”
He said he still will run the Friday Night concert series through Townscape and will continue to be involved in community events such as the Country Fair.
He said he’s always felt the town should sell the Enterprise Park at Calverton and get the property back on the tax rolls.
A number of residents also praised Mr. Wooten for his work on the board.
Ms. Jens-Smith also received a praise for her effort on the board.
“Thank you for your service,” Mr. Wooten told her. “As the town changes direction, I want you to know that I know you did your best. And you should be proud because the history books for this town will always show that you were the first woman supervisor elected to this town. They can’t take that away.”
Ms. Kent said Ms. Jens-Smith “worked long hours, and then went home to read and prepare for the next day.”
She said Ms. Jens-Smith improved public safety in the town and protected the town from overcrowding and blight.
“As the first female supervisor, that glass ceiling has been broken,” Ms. Kent said.
Photo caption: Jim Wooten at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)