Walter: I never aspired to legislature
Sean Walter never aspired to be a Suffolk County legislator.
Riverhead's Republican supervisor said that, until recently, he was completely focused on town issues including downtown revitalization and the complicated subdivision and redevelopment of a large former industrial site.
But constituents kept urging him to run for the seat in the legislature's 1st District, which opened last fall when Republican Edward Romaine became Brookhaven supervisor. He's running against Al Krupski, the Democratic Southold town board member and a fourth-generation farmer.
The special election to represent the district, which stretches from Fishers Island to Center Moriches, is Tuesday. The district has 61,789 voters, including 16,295 Democrats, 22,946 Republicans and 16,751 with no party affiliation.
"So many people came up to me with, 'You should do it. You should do it.' I wasn't really that interested," said Walter, elected Riverhead supervisor in 2010. "But I'm doing it on faith, and the way I look at it, it's an opportunity to represent more people and still do the things I'd like to do."
Walter said serving as supervisor has more than prepared him for the county legislature.
He said his experience overseeing Riverhead's budget will allow him to watchdog Suffolk finances while still advocating for East End interests.
Walter also stresses his work in streamlining town government, privatizing the animal shelter and encouraging investment in Riverhead's once-depressed Main Street, namely the Suffolk Theater revamping.
In Riverhead, Walter has a reputation for combativeness -- to the point of getting into shouting matches with fellow town board Republicans.
"I make no excuses for my leadership style," said Walter, who was once a Conservative Party member. "You have to crack eggs to make an omelet."
Suffolk Conservative Party chairman Ed Walsh said Walter's "fiery temperament" will help in the legislature.
"When it comes to people's tax dollars you want someone who can say, 'Wait a minute: why are we spending on this; bonding for that?' " Walsh said.
Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen, a Republican who once called Walter's outbursts "unprofessional," said he still feels the supervisor would bring fiscal responsibility to the county.
"I think he's got the drive, and that compensates for his temper," Gabrielsen said.
If elected, Walter said he wants to lobby the state to document the county's sales tax revenue by town, arguing that East End's influence in the county legislature is disproportionately low based on the money it funnels to Suffolk.
"Knowledge of where the money is coming from might very much influence votes," Walter said.
Republican, Conservative, Independence
Home: Wading River
Career: Riverhead Town Supervisor, 2010-present; practicing private attorney since 2006; formerly Riverhead deputy town attorney
Education: B.A., Binghamton University; J.D., St. John's
Family: Wife, Cathleen; three children