The boarded-up entrance to Riverhead Town Hall on March 13, 2020. File photo: Peter Blasl

Riverhead is a town of many assets, but beyond our beaches, farms and great shopping, the best of Riverhead is its people. Despite a population of over 33,000, ours has always been a close-knit community, where residents regularly come together to support one another.

But over the past year and four months, I have grown more concerned watching the current supervisor ignore the voices of residents and continue to fuel the division that was an integral part of her campaign. The current supervisor does not respect our community or understand our values.

As quickly as the pandemic hit, the supervisor put up a wall between herself and the Riverhead residents. Temporarily closing Town Hall to the public would not have been unreasonable, but staff coming to work on March 13, 2020 were alarmed to find a literal wall closing off the lobby and a uniformed police officer at the entrance. Nothing had been discussed. No one had been informed of the decisions, not even council members or department heads and certainly not the residents.

As the pandemic continued, so did silence from the supervisor’s office. Town Hall remained essentially barricaded, now virtually as well. Weeks passed without meetings or informational press conferences. It was nearly three full months before most meetings resumed and only then at the insistence of council members. However, residents continued to be excluded from Town Hall and ignored. In times of crisis, shouldn’t the people of Riverhead deserve to have the confidence and security that our town supervisor is standing strong in our corner, not hidden behind a wall?

It’s more than my opinion that Town Hall belongs to the people of Riverhead. Our taxes pay for it, it houses our local government and every one of us is entitled to having our voice heard. Our Town Hall should not be a fortress that keeps the public and their opinions out.

I believe that Riverhead needs a supervisor that understands that Town Hall belongs to the community, and everyone deserves a say in what happens in and to our town.

As a lifelong resident, I know that our people are our greatest asset. Every voice deserves to be heard and listened to in decision-making. As your next supervisor, I will work with and for our residents, not work around them. I will open the doors of Town Hall to discussions and respect. And I will not hide in times of crisis. I will always step up to offer answers, information, assistance and the assurance that whatever we have to deal with, we’ll get through together.

Catherine Kent (D-Baiting Hollow) is a member of the Riverhead Town Board. She is the Democratic candidate for town supervisor this year.


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