Kristen Slevin, a 40-year-old chocolatier with a shop off Smithtown’s East Main Street, is running for town supervisor on a platform that includes term limits for the town board, creation of town council districts and revision of a municipal code she calls “obsolete.”
Slevin has no experience in government, isn’t seeking major party backing and said in a recent interview that anyone contemplating donating to her campaign should instead give to the charity of their choice. She needs to gather 1,500 signatures from town voters to win a spot on the November ballot, and five months away from that race her most visible campaigning occurs on a dedicated Facebook page. She has no campaign staff, but about 20 friends and social media connections will help gather voter signatures during the candidate qualifying period from July 11 to August 22, she said.
Alongside likely opponents and municipal government veterans Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilman Ed Wehrheim, who are Republicans, and Assistant Suffolk County Attorney Bill Holst, a Democrat, she is a political outsider, a role she embraces. “Career politicians are bad for government,” she said. “Anybody that’s in a very powerful position for a very long time can lose sight of what government is supposed to be.” In a well-functioning government, she said, “whoever sits in the highest position should listen to the consensus of the people and is just there to ensure that the laws are carried out correctly.”
Slevin, who was raised in Smithtown and lived there much of her life aside from two stints in Patchogue, said her interest in local politics grew from conversations with customers in her shop, called Yottabyte, and online. Few people wanted to talk about the ethics of chocolate production, a subject dear to her heart, but everybody wanted to talk about the town’s business districts. “When we started to talk about how concerned we were about Main Street and the businesses that are shutting down, that resonated,” she said.
Slevin and some of her customers wanted town government to intercede with commercial landlords and more actively promote downtown commerce, she said. She would explore bringing kiosks showcasing local businesses to part of the New York Avenue school district land the town is negotiating to buy, she said.
Most of these proposals end up on the Facebook page, subject to quasi-public scrutiny. An idea to hold a public hearing about moving the statue of Whisper the bull from the intersection of West Main Street and St. Johnland Road, near the Oasis Gentlemen’s Club, to a more central location, drew dozens of replies, many angrily opposed. An idea to regulate the signs of anti-abortion protesters at a Smithtown women’s clinic to “allow them to demonstrate with less offensive images” drew just one comment and dozens of “likes.”
Voter registration statistics in Smithtown favor Republicans, who have dominated town government for decades under Vecchio’s leadership. But he and Wehrheim could split the Republican vote in November, and the town has 21,520 voters who are — like Slevin — unaffiliated.
“The math is absolutely there,” she said. “If there are enough people like me who feel we need to shake things up,” she said, “I could totally blindside everybody and take it.”