Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim is running for reelection.

Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim is running for reelection. Credit: Ed Betz

When Republican Edward R. Wehrheim primaried Patrick Vecchio out of the 2017 Smithtown supervisor race, and then won the general election, it marked a huge change in leadership, but not a break in continuity.

Vecchio had been town supervisor since 1977, and his 40 years in the role are believed to be a state record. But Wehrheim, 73, from Kings Park, started working at the town’s parks department in 1972, only retiring as director in 2003 to assume the council seat he’d just won.

That long tenure and the variety of his experience have resulted in an unusual blend of pragmatism and vision. In a community where change often lags, Wehrheim’s common-sense approach to infrastructure, development and town finances have delivered significant progress, and laid the groundwork for more.

Wehrheim is as intent on improving Smithtown’s recreation assets as you’d expect given his background: About three-quarters of the town’s parks and beaches have been renovated or repaired. And Smithtown's fiscal condition also remains strong, a Vecchio tradition Wehrheim has wisely upheld.

But Wehrheim’s biggest success has been in shepherding improved infrastructure and the development it allows in central Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James. Sewer projects are moving forward, more parking has been added, and multifamily housing — both rentals and owned units — is springing up near the train stations to support downtown businesses, feeding the synergy dynamic commercial districts need.

Wehrheim’s opponent, Maria C. Scheuring, 50, also evokes memories of Vecchio — who died in 2019 at age 88 — but in a different way. A Democrat and attorney who plays electric guitar on the side, Scheuring wants development stopped in the town, and in some cases even reversed. She argues that Smithtown’s infrastructure is so overburdened, from sewers to roads, that a halt is needed on new homes and businesses until traffic and environmental concerns are brought to heel.

She’s so devoted to slowing things in the town that time forgot that she supports demolishing empty Main Street storefronts to create green space and pocket parks. She opposes large development projects, like what's been envisioned for the Gyrodyne property, now and for the foreseeable future. And she rejects apartment construction, deeming renters less rooted in the community.

Scheuring is caught in the same paradox as many Long Islanders: She wants her three kids to be able to stay in Smithtown as adults but doesn’t support building the housing their offspring would need to be able to do so.

Scheuring has a keen eye for discerning problems, and an obvious passion for her community, but she does not have the right answers for Smithtown.

Newsday endorses Wehrheim.

ENDORSEMENTS ARE DETERMINED solely by the Newsday editorial board, a team of opinion journalists focused on issues of public policy and governance. Newsday’s news division has no role in this process.

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