The Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday took a step toward doubling the town supervisor’s term from two years to four and set a term limit for all five board members.
Board members voted 5-0 to schedule a Nov. 8 public referendum on the proposal to lengthen the supervisor’s term, which would put his term of office in line with several other Long Island supervisors.
Also on Tuesday, the town board voted 4-1 to limit all five board members, including the supervisor, to 12 years in office. Council members are elected to four-year terms.
The all-Republican board rejected an alternate bill that would have allowed the board’s longest-serving member, Councilman John Dunleavy, to seek re-election to one additional term in 2017. Dunleavy was first elected in 2005.
Four board members voted to reject that proposal. Dunleavy abstained. He is now prevented from seeking a fourth term in 2017.
Supervisor Sean Walter made calling for both electoral reforms a central part of his State of the Town address in March. He said lengthening the supervisor’s term would end a cycle of “constant campaigning” and fundraising that detracts from the supervisor’s ability to serve the public.
Walter also said a 12-year limit in office for all board members would “eliminate the lethargy that can sometimes affect local government.”
Half of Suffolk’s 10 town supervisors have four-year terms: those in Babylon, Huntington, Islip, Smithtown and Southold. Nassau’s three town supervisors have two-year terms.
“I support this, but I want everybody to know it will be up for a referendum,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said of extending the supervisor’s term before voting.
She lost to Walter in a contentious race for supervisor last year.
“It gives everybody in the Town of Riverhead the opportunity to say yes or no in November,” Dunleavy said before voting.