Republican Yvette Aguiar took office as Riverhead supervisor Wednesday, making a point of swearing the oath of office on a Bible given to her by a Democratic constituent and vowing to “always have the best interests of our community before mine.”
“I will do everything in my power to ensure I represent the entire community and we all move forward together,” she said to a crowd of at least 150 at the Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.
Aguiar, 60, defeated Democratic Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith in the Nov. 5 election in what was widely viewed as an upset. Aguiar, a retired NYPD counterterrorism sergeant, is a real estate agent and an associate professor for online courses at the American Military University in Washington, D.C.
Aguiar said in an interview after the ceremony that although it is “an honor” to be the first Latina and second female supervisor for the town, her identity has not been her focus.
“I did not run my campaign on gender or ethnicity,” she said. “I ran my campaign on the people and the issues.”
Aguiar said she has “reached [out to] every fragment of my community.”
The Rev. Charles A. Coverdale, pastor of First Baptist Church, a primarily African American church in Riverhead, said he is encouraged by what he views as Aguiar’s “inclusive” campaign and gestures, which included inviting his church’s choir to open and close the ceremony — something he said previous Republicans had never done. The choir also sang at Jens-Smith’s inauguration.
He urged Aguiar to appoint more African Americans and Latinos to town committees and positions, which he said are held overwhelmingly by whites.
“I hope she brings a new breath of fresh air to our Town Hall, for everyone in the town: Hispanic, black, Caucasian, everyone,” he said.
Riverhead is about 14% Latino and 11% black, according to 2014-18 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Aguiar began her four-minute inauguration address recalling the “moving moment during my campaign” when the Democratic constituent offered her the Bible.
“I knocked on the door and the person returned my flyer, indicating they were from another political party,” she said. “I informed the individual that I was new to politics and if I’m elected I would be working for my entire town. We exchanged some thoughts and as I left she called me back. She said she wanted to say a prayer for me. She took out a Bible and prayed for a moment. Thereafter she gave me the Bible.”
“The Bible is the same Bible I’m using today to take [my] oath,” Aguiar said to loud applause.
Among those attending the ceremony were one current and one former NYPD detective who worked under Aguiar. Both praised her leadership skills and called her a role model for policewomen.
“She’s an excellent leader, she’s inspirational and she works with everybody,” said current Det. Gloria Felix. “She cares about her work. She’s not a 9-to-5, ‘I’ll take care of it tomorrow.’ She sees things through to the end.”
One of Aguiar’s top campaign promises was to crack down on illegally overcrowded housing.
Victoria Martell, 45, of Riverhead hamlet, said overcrowded housing is one of the main reasons she voted for Aguiar. It leads to overcrowded classrooms and higher school and town taxes, she said.
Ted Farro, 49, of Riverhead hamlet, said he also likes her vow to rejuvenate the downtown.
“We’ve got to revitalize Main Street and get more businesses in,” he said. “Right now everything is on [Route] 58.”
New Hempstead Supervisor Donald X. Clavin Jr. also was sworn into office Wednesday, but in a private ceremony and signing of his oath of office at Town Hall with his wife and three children. The Republican, who served as the town’s receiver of taxes for 18 years, narrowly defeated former Democratic Supervisor Laura Gillen.
Clavin’s inauguration ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday at Hempstead Town Hall.
With John Asbury