Freshly minted Councilman Kenneth Rothwell in Town Hall on Jan. 5, after the town board appointed him to fill the vacancy created by the election of former councilwoman Jodi Giglio to the State Assembly. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Town Board today appointed Kenneth Rothwell of Wading River to the council seat vacated by former councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who was elected to the State Assembly in November.

Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm administered the oath of office to the new councilman immediately after the board voted 3-0, with Councilwoman Catherine Kent abstaining, to appoint him. His wife Debra held two Bibles on which Rothwell placed his hand to take take the oath, as their sons Kenny and Cameron and Rothwell’s parents, Thomas and Margaret Rothwell, looked on.

Councilman Kenneth Rothwell takes the oath of office, administered by Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm, Jan. 5 at town hall. The councilman’s wife Debra held two Bibles as their sons Kenny, left, and Cameron look on, along with Rothwell’s parents Thomas and Margaret, right, and members of the town board. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Rothwell, 49, has lived in Wading River for 24 years. He is the owner of several area funeral homes, including the Alexander-Rothwell Funeral Home in Wading River.

In an interview after the board meeting, Rothwell said his interest in his career was sparked by a friend who owned a funeral home. After studying architecture at SUNY Delhi and New York Institute of Technology, he enrolled in a mortuary science program at SUNY Farmingdale, a program that transitioned to Nassau County Community College while he was enrolled. He earned an associate’s degree in mortuary science.

“Once I began my schooling, and I studied the history, I was fascinated from day one,” Rothwell said. “One of the things I love about my job is meeting so many people from different cultural and religious backgrounds and learning about their customs,” he said. “I love making a personal connection.”

Rothwell said he brings diverse life and business experiences with him to the town board.

“I’ve always taken an interest in being involved in the town. I hope my experience will be an asset to the town and that I can help move the town forward,” Rothwell said.

“Early on in my career I worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Now that I’ve been successful in business, I have the time to give back,” Rothwell said.

“I’m really looking forward to serving on the town board and I think I’m going to love it. I’m very excited,” he said, “and I look forward to hitting the ground running. It will be an honor to serve the town and all its residents and I look forward to working with the whole town board as a team.”

In his spare time, Rothwell is an avid hiker. He hikes in the White Mountains regularly and has scaled Mount Washington several times. One of his proudest moments as a hiker was reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, he said.

“It was just an amazing experience,” he said. “I had the opportunity to learn about life and history in Tanzania and Kenya.

The experience was made even more special because he was privileged to carry a U.S. flag that had flown over Ground Zero to the Mt. Kilimanjaro summit, at the request of a firefighter friend.

“It was an extremely proud moment and such an honor,” he said.

He and his wife work with the Elk Institute, which provides PTSD treatment for veterans, police and firefighters at no cost. The services are paid for through private donations, he said. The Rothwells devote a lot of time to that endeavor, he said.

Rothwell is not a political novice. Nearly 20 years ago, he became president of the Riverhead Republican Club and worked to expand involvement in the local political party, in order to give the community a voice, he said.

Then life intervened. He and his wife had their first child and he bought his first funeral home. His involvement in local politics had to take a back seat, he said.

“Family is always first,” Rothwell said.

Now with his children grown — his younger son is a junior at Riverhead High School — and his business established and thriving, Rothwell said he is at a different phase in life and wants to give back.

He said he intends to run for a full four-year term on the town board.

“The year ahead is an incredible opportunity,” Rothwell acknowledge. He intends to use it to become more knowledgeable and to prove himself to town residents to win their support.

“I’m going to work hard to do that,” Rothwell said.

Riverhead’s newest councilman, Ken Rothwell, center, flanked by members of the town board after his swearing in today at town hall. From left, Councilman Frank Beyrodt, Councilwoman Catherine Kent, Rothwell, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Councilman Tim Hubbard. Photo: Denise Civiletti

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