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Should town supervisor get a four-year term? Town board once again considers it

Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith delivered her first 'state of the town' address to a packed town hall meeting room April 10. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Town Board is again considering increasing the town supervisor’s term to four years from its present length of two years.

The board has scheduled a public hearing on a local law that would establish a four-year term for the office beginning with the term of office commencing Jan. 1, 2020. The local law, if adopted, is subject to a mandatory referendum, which would be held Nov. 6, the date of this year’s general election.

A public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21 at 7:20 p.m. at town hall.

The move to expand the supervisor’s term came from the supervisor herself. Like her predecessors Sean Walter and Phil Cardinale — who both sought to expand the term from two to four years — Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith believes the two-year term makes it difficult to get things done.

“I think for continuity and long-term planning, the four-year term allows for more planning and the ability to carry it out,” Jens-Smith said.

The council members by state law have a four-year term. Town elections are held every two years on odd-numbered years. With the supervisor’s seat up for grabs at each election, there is the possibility that the majority party controlling the five-member board may change with each town election — something cited in the past as a benefit of the two-year term by opponents of expanding it to four years.

A ballot question on a four-year supervisor term was put to voters in November 2016 — and it was defeated overwhelmingly, 65 percent to 35 percent.

Officials held a public hearing on a four-year term in 2009, but the idea drew so much opposition from the community that the town board did not adopt the measure and it wasn’t put to a vote. The question made it to the ballot in the general elections of 2005 and 2007 and failed both times. In 2007, voters approved a four-year term for the highway superintendent, however.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.