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Riverhead board votes to adopt 4-year term for town supervisor

Outgoing Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith proposed extending the

Outgoing Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith proposed extending the term of the post to 4 years. Credit: James Escher

Riverhead residents will be able to vote next year on whether they want to extend the town supervisor's term from two years to four.

The Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the term extension and place it on the ballot for a mandatory referendum during the November elections in 2020. If voters approve it, Riverhead would become only the second East End town — the other is Southold — to extend the supervisor’s term to four years.

Outgoing Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith — who will be leaving in January following her defeat in November to Supervisor-elect Yvette Aguiar — proposed the resolution in November, saying that a term extension would give future supervisors more time to accomplish goals in office.

Several residents who spoke at a public hearing at Town Hall that was held shortly before the vote agreed.

Ellen Hoyle, of Riverhead, said it takes time for incoming supervisors to get to know how departments work and how government functions in town, “and before you get a chance to do all that, you’re running for reelection.”

“Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, that’s just the way it is, so I’m in favor of extending terms,” Hoyle said.

Robert Skinner, of Jamesport, said he felt that if term limits were longer, it would help familiarize officials with efforts to seek relief for residents living close to the Federal Aviation Administration’s mandated North Shore helicopter route, which has generated noise complaints for years.

Reeves Park resident Eric Biegler said a four-year term “just makes sense.”

“The supervisor is the leader of the town,” he said. “The continuity at the head of command for a longer period than two years is crucial in running any organization. Whether it be a military organization or a business, you need to have that continuity.”

However, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who voted against the term extension, pointed out that voters had rejected the term extension in previous years.

“I like the idea of being able to change up the board every two years, and the dynamics of the board and the direction of the town,” Giglio said.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said two years isn't enough time for supervisors to serve.

“I always felt that way, but now that I’ve been in office and seen it firsthand, I feel even more strongly about it,” Kent said.

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