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Riverhead Town Board holds special meeting to fill supervisor’s staff

The Riverhead Town Board unanimously voted to hire Supervisor Yvette Aguiar’s new staff during a special meeting Thursday.  

The town is also now searching for a new Town Board coordinator.

Denise Merrifield was hired as deputy supervisor at an annual salary of $82,694, while Devon Higgins was hired to be an executive assistant at an annual salary of $65,384.

Ms. Merrifield, who lives in Wading River, is a former Bureau Chief from the Suffolk County Prosecutor’s office, and she has extensive experience in personnel management and government law enforcement operations, according to Ms. Aguiar.

Ms. Merrified holds a J.D. from Albany Law school and a B.S. in Political Science from Stony Brook University.

The deputy supervisor position was held by a Town Council member during prior Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith’s term. Historically, it has varied, having been held by both a person in the supervisor’s office in some administrations and held by a council member in others.

Ms. Higgins, who lives in Jamesport, has a B.S. in Business Administration from Loyola University and is a certified paralegal. She has extensive knowledge in real estate acquisitions and building permitting, according to Ms. Aguiar.

Patrick Derenze, who was legislative secretary under the prior supervisor, Laura Jens-Smith, will remain in that position on a temporary basis, Ms. Aguiar said. The annual salary for that position is $41,992.

Given the new salaries, overall personnel spending in the supervisor’s office would increase $12,189 this year, records show.

The Town Board accepted the resignation of its Town Board coordinator, Kristen Hunt, who gave notice of her intent to resign effective Dec. 31.

That position has an annual salary of $40,000, according to town records.

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