People of the Year

Celebrating the News-Review’s 2023 People of the Year

The Times Review Media Group celebrated several exceptional members of the North Fork community at its annual People of the Year Awards reception Thursday night.

Honorees and their guests joined the Times Review Media staff along with newly elected town supervisors Al Krupski and Tim Hubbard to share stories and express their thanks and gratitude to the entire North Fork community during a cocktail reception at The Vineyards at Aquebogue.

The annual awards, which have been handed out since 1987, recognize leaders in local public and community service, education, business and sports by the editorial staff of The Suffolk Times, Riverhead News-Review, and Shelter Island Reporter newspapers as well as the Northforker and Southforker lifestyle brands.

“The best part of our People of the Year awards reception is when we hear directly from the award recipients themselves because they are so impressive and mean so much to our community,” said Times Review Media Group publisher Andrew Olsen. “As journalists we are incredibly honored to tell their stories.”

When John McAuliff took a lead role in the campaign opposing a controversial development proposal at Enterprise Park in Calverton, he brought a lifetime’s worth of activism to the table. John has been working since the early 1960s to promote reconciliation and healing and build commonality all over the world. A Peace Corps vet who went to Mississippi for 1964’s Freedom Summer voter registration campaign, John went on to champion post war reconciliation in Southeast Asia, and more recently in Cuba. As his wife Mary eloquently described him to us, John “believes fiercely in this country, and in its democracy, and in what it can be. He wants to help America be good, be right, live up to its values, its morals, its ideals.”

“I was by no means singly responsible [for EPCAL Watch],” Mr. McAuliff said upon receiving his Person of the Year award Thursday. “I just had the biggest mouth … it was the [local news] publications that helped turn what we were doing into a community sentiment.”

Since taking the helm as executive director at the East End Food Institute, now known as East End Food, Kate Fullam has worked tirelessly to realize the organization’s top goal of creating a more sustainable and equitable local food ecosystem. For her remarkable efforts connecting farmers and food producers directly with the community, Ms. Fullam was named Riverhead News-Review’s 2023 Community Leader of the year.

The educators at Shoreham-Wading River Central School District’s special education department, have experienced plenty of “aha” moments—both big and small— when they realize this is the profession they were meant to pursue. Whether it’s students showing off their talents on stage, scoring their first-ever points on a basketball court or learning to cook meals for their families, these are all significant accomplishments. These teachers are not only educators, but advocates, motivators, sources of comfort and their students’ biggest cheerleaders.

“I work with the most amazing educators; I agree that they deserve this,” Tracy Von Eschen, SWR’s director of special education, said upon receiving the 2023 Educators of the Year award on behalf of the department. “I’m so grateful to the children we have the honor of educating.”

More than a quarter-century of distinguished service to the Town of Riverhead came to a close last month at a spirited, jam-packed retirement party for Diane Wilhelm, Riverhead’s beloved longtime town clerk. Everybody at the party talked about Diane’s kindness and humility, her easy laugh and her absolute mastery of a job that demands a wide portfolio of knowledge. For her decades of service to Riverhead, her sincere joy in helping others and her reliably great sense of humor, Ms. Wilhelm was named Riverhead News-Review’s 2023 Public Servant of the Year. 

“Thank you so much for this honor; I’m completely overwhelmed,” Ms. Wilhelm said. “I want to congratulate all the award recipients this evening … We are very very lucky to have all these people in our community who do such wonderful things.”

Luis Siguencia, owner of Golden Jalapeños Café in Calverton, was honored as 2023’s Business Person of the Year for his years of giving back to veterans and those in need within the community. Since opening Golden Jalapeños in 2014, Mr. Siguencia has offered free Thanksgiving meals to families in need. “He’ll help anyone, and he tries to hire people that can use the help,” one friend and fellow volunteer said.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Siguencia remarked how deeply impacted he was when learning of the valiant efforts of U.S. veterans while studying for his citizenship test. He never forgot that and decided to give back, especially to vets, whenever and however he can.

Troy and Caryn Albert of Wading River have been working to bring ice hockey to the East End since 2015, when their son first began playing. On November 25 of last year, eight years after the initiative began, the Ed Westfall Arena opened in Calverton. For their efforts, their ingenuity and their commitment to make this dream a reality for hockey lovers across the region, Mr. and Mrs. Albert are The News-Review’s 2023 Sports People of the Year. 

For sharing his vision, passion and talent, and bringing The Rites of Spring Music Festival to life, Paolo Bartolani was named 2023’s Northforker of the Year.

“I don’t want to talk about me; I want to talk about the Rites of Spring Music Festival,” Mr. Bartolani said upon receiving his award. “Our goal is to bring music and outstanding musicians close to the community. We are constantly looking for new partnerships. We are so honored and so proud to be part of this community.”