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Featured Story
11/07/17 9:00pm

Laura Jens-Smith was attending a Town Board meeting, as she routinely has in recent years, when a discussion began with Supervisor Sean Walter. At one point, Mr. Walter suggested to Ms. Jens-Smith that if she wanted to see a change, she could run for supervisor.


11/03/17 6:00am

Tax Assessor
Four-year term; one open seat
Salary: $83,846

Susan Ambro

Hamlet: Wading River

Occupation: Attorney

Party lines: Democratic, Independence, Working Families

About her: Ms. Ambro, 58, is an attorney with the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society, where she represents clients who cannot afford to pay. A graduate of the University of Bridgeport law school, she has been an attorney for 31 years. Ms. Ambro’s husband, Richard, is a state Supreme Court Judge in Suffolk County.

Ms. Ambro did not respond to a questionnaire sent to candidates by the Riverhead News-Review and was not present last Thursday at the only public candidate forum that included the assessor candidates.

In May, when she was nominated to run for assessor, she said, “I’ve been amazed over the years at how nothing has ever come out of the assessors’ office that was ever good for me, and maybe for most of the people who sit here. I think it’s an office that’s overlooked because it’s not the supervisor or the council or maybe because it’s not making policy. But in a way, it is, because it’s dealing with your most important asset — your cold, hard cash.”

She said she feels the assessors’ office lacks accountability.

Laverne Tennenberg

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Assessor (incumbent)

Party lines: Republican, Conservative

About her: Ms. Tennenberg, 59, is a Riverhead native and graduate of Hofstra University. She holds the NYS designation of professional assessor and is responsible for the valuation of $7 billion in real property. She says she has a comprehensive knowledge of the real property tax law and is proficient in all assessment administration functions. She was first elected in 1989.

Her pitch: Ms. Tennenberg said she strives to educate taxpayers about the property tax system, which can be complex and confusing. Over the years, she said, she’s computerized many assessment functions to increase efficiency in the office. Property tax exemptions are a large part of her work, she said, and all applications are reviewed carefully for eligibility. She recently helped taxpayers in manufactured home communities receive STAR property tax credit checks that were owed to them from 2016, she said.

In her words: “This personal touch has been the hallmark of my tenure with the town, and is what I believe to be the primary function of all public employees … to provide the best service possible.”

11/03/17 6:00am

Highway Superintendent
Four-year term
Salary: $94,803

George Woodson

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Highway superintendent

Party lines: Democratic, Independence, Working Families

About him: Born and raised in Riverhead, Mr. Woodson, 56, graduated from Riverhead High School, served in the U.S. Army as a military police traffic accident investigator, and served as an officer for six years in the Riverhead Fire Department and a chief for seven. He has over 35 years of service in the town, eight of which were as highway superintendent. Mr. Woodson said he started at the bottom and worked his way to the top position.

He is the only candidate on the ballot, although William Van Helmond is running a write-in campaign.

His pitch: “I have worked hard for the last eight years to make our department one of the best on Long Island,” Mr. Woodson said. “Our equipment is up to date and always progressing. I am attending conferences to keep up with the latest technologies, and we just recently built a new building to keep most of our equipment out of the weather.”

He said the highway department, through careful spending, is always looking for good, used equipment to save the taxpayers money.

In his words: “I’m always giving 100 percent to the job, I’ve brought over $800,000 back to the highway department, I’m always looking for ways to make the department more efficient, and lastly, to leave the department better than when I took it over.”

11/03/17 6:00am

Town Supervisor

Two-year term
Salary: $115,148

Laura Jens-Smith

Hamlet: Laurel

Occupation: Registered nurse

Party lines: Democrat, Independence, Working Families, and Women’s Equality Party

About her: Laura Jens-Smith, 54, lives in Riverhead with her husband, Robert, and their two children. She has served on numerous community boards including the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education.

Ms. Jens-Smith was raised in Port Jefferson Station and received her associate degree at Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing and her bachelor’s degree from Pace University.

Her pitch: Ms. Jens-Smith has argued that the promises of a revitalized downtown, fixed finances and development at EPCAL have not come to fruition. She said the CEO of Luminati Aerospace, the company seeking to purchase the EPCAL land, had previously been fired for fraud. She said the supervisor has added residential housing to the zoning at EPCAL. Having reviewed the supervisor’s financial policy, Moody’s has reaffirmed the town’s downgraded credit rating, she said. She’s also spoken against the IDA, which she said has given away millions in tax breaks.

In her words: “I believe it is time for new leadership that will be transparent and responsive. I will bring fresh, creative ideas, a full-time commitment and the motivation to get the job done.”

Sean Walter

Hamlet: Wading River

Occupation: Supervisor, attorney

Party lines: Conservative, Republican

About him: Mr. Walter, 51, has been Riverhead town supervisor since 2010, and was deputy town attorney from 2000 to 2006, assisting the town attorney in all phases of litigation, and managing the town’s farmland and open space program.

Mr. Walter began his career in Brookhaven Town’s waste management department, and in 1992, was hired as the environmental manager for the 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach. In 2006, he started a law practice in Wading River, dealing in land-use issues, as well as real estate, estates and litigation.

Mr. Walter has lived in Wading River since 1992 with his wife, Cathleen, and their three children.

His pitch: Mr. Walter said the development of downtown Riverhead, representing $80 million total investments, has made the town a destination. He said there are “exciting things’ happening at the Enterprise Park at Calverton as negotiations continue with two companies to purchase the remaining available land and bring back tech jobs. He cited stable tax rates and turning around a 12 percent budget deficit in six years as accomplishments.

In his words: “Don’t believe the rhetoric, believe what you see. If you are excited about what has been going on in this town and all that has been accomplished over the past eight years would you please consider voting for Sean Walter for supervisor.”