Give Sean Walter his due.
The Riverhead Town supervisor faced some big challenges when he first was elected eight years ago. A Republican, he largely has stabilized the town’s finances and downtown Riverhead is finally starting to show signs of a resurgence. But it’s been a long time coming, especially in comparison to other areas that are blossoming.
And then there’s EPCAL. The 2,900-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton has gone undeveloped for years, with a variety of proposals withering on the vine. Walter, 51, an attorney from Wading River, has been touting a big deal with an unproven company that would test solar-powered drones. Two years ago, we said he deserved one more term to try to bring it to fruition. He hasn’t. Now he’s talking about bringing in controversial billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis to help close the contract. We’re not convinced. And Walter says the next hearing on the deal will take place in November, after the election. That’s convenient.
Walter’s opponent, Democrat Laura Jens-Smith, is a nurse by training, fortuitous for a town in need of care. Jens-Smith, 54, of Laurel, a member of the Mattituck-Cutchogue school board since 2011 and now its president, has a more holistic view of the town. She wants to subdivide EPCAL, market it aggressively, and start selling smaller portions of the property. Jens-Smith says the recovery of downtown Riverhead has been lagging, and she wants to improve communication with business owners there. Aesthetics are an important part of development, she says, and she wants to emphasize the riverfront in Riverhead by encouraging more stores along Main Street to open to the river out back and create green space along the river. And she wants more signage around the town to direct people downtown, which can and should be a gateway to the Twin Forks.
Big change takes a while. We get it. But Walter has been in office a while. He’s had his chance. It’s time for a fresh face.
Newsday endorses Jens-Smith.