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Former supervisor elected chair of Riverhead Democratic Committee

Former Riverhead supervisor Laura Jens-Smith has a new role.

She was elected chair of the Riverhead Democratic Committee on Oct. 18, while the committee also elected new members to its executive board. 

Ellen Hoil of Riverhead was elected vice chair of the committee, Patrick Derenze of Jamesport was elected secretary and Maxine Kleedorfer of Baiting Hollow was elected treasurer.

Ms. Jens-Smith succeeds Mike Roth as chair.

“I just felt that it was time to clean up the executive committee and bring some energy back into the committee,” said Ms. Jens-Smith of Laurel. “I think the turnout in Riverhead has not been where we would like to see it. Part of that is engaging the community and the Democrats in the community and the election process. We have not been as successful at that as we would like to be. So that definitely is a major focus of the committee.”

Ms. Jens-Smith was elected supervisor in November 2017 and served one term before losing reelection to Republican Yvette Aguiar, the current supervisor. Ms. Aguiar was reelected in 2021.

“We’ve had this one-party rule in Riverhead for quite a long while, with the Republicans have been in the majority,” said Mr. Jens-Smith, who is also president of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association.

Democrats had two seats with Mr. Jens-Smith and also former Councilwoman Catherine Kent on the board. Ms. Kent gave up her council seat to run for supervisor last year. 

Democrats did have a majority on the Town Board in 1998 and 1999, with Vinny Villella as supervisor and Phil Cardinale and Chris Kent as councilmen. That was the last time Democrats had a majority on the Riverhead Town Board. 

“There’s so much development going on,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “Not only in Calverton but in downtown and everywhere else. And we are still operating out of this old sort of antiquated comprehensive plan.”

The town was in the process of updating the comprehensive plan, but it fired the company performing the work in June, citing slow progress. The board then hired BFJ Planning of Manhattan to finish the comprehensive plan update.