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A month in, Aguiar has new Deputy Town Supervisor

Less than a month into her tenure in office, Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar has made some changes in her office staffing, particularly in the deputy supervisor position.

Originally, she announced that her office staff would include Denise Merrifield of Wading River as deputy supervisor at $82,694 per year and Devon Higgins of Jamesport as her executive assistant at $65,384 per year.

Patrick Derenze, who had been legislative secretary under former supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, agreed to stay on to help with the transition at an annual salary of $41,992.

The Town Board unanimously approved those changes at the beginning of January.

But Ms. Merrifield resigned to take another job as of Jan. 16, and Mr. Derenze resigned as of Jan. 17.

At last Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, the board formally accepted those resignations and appointed Lisa Richards as secretary to the supervisor at an annual salary of $41,500.

The board also issued a legal notice seeking a town budget officer in the supervisor’s office.

Ms. Aguiar said the position was recommended by the state comptroller’s office.

She likened it to a “quality control” position that signs off on all expenditures.

The position comes with an annual salary of $65,384 and requires “a strong background in public administration, public finance and budgeting or accounting.”

The advertisement states that only applicants who live in Riverhead Town will be considered. The town had a residency requirement for all its employees many years ago, but later dropped it, in part because it was difficult to enforce.

Last Thursday, Ms. Aguiar issued a press release naming Ms. Higgins as deputy supervisor.

“In the short time in office, Ms. Higgins has been an integral part of my administration’s transition and has demonstrated strong personnel and management skills as well as the ability to work collaboratively with my various departments in moving our Town forward,” the supervisor said.

The deputy position had been in demand, she said.

“Various members of the Town Council, former council members and other individuals came forward expressing interest in the designation,” Ms. Aguiar said of the deputy post. “And I want to specifically thank Councilman Tim Hubbard for his consideration. I look forward to working with Tim and the entire Town Council in a productive and harmonious manner for the betterment of Riverhead.”

Ms. Aguiar said she will be “constantly evaluating my executive staff and will never hesitate to restructure my office for enhanced efficiency and productivity for Riverhead Town.”

Historically, Riverhead supervisors have had the deputy position handled by a town council member in some cases, and by a full-time employee in others.