Riverhead Town is governed by a five-member Town Board comprising the town supervisor and four council members. Each is an equal voting member of the board under state law, but the town supervisor has certain additional powers and duties. 

In addition to its duties as the town’s legislative and governing body, the Town Board sits as the governing body of the Riverhead Community Development Agency, the Riverhead Water District, Riverhead Sewer District, Calverton Sewer District, Riverhead Business Improvement District and Riverhead Ambulance District. 

Council Member

Term: Four Years

Salary: $48,955

The council member position is a part-time position.

Andrew Leven (D)

Andrew Leven, of Riverhead, is a registered Republican running on the Democratic ticket.

Leven is a white-collar defense attorney with Dilworth Paxson, LLP, out of the firm’s Princeton, New Jersey office. He is a former assistant U.S. attorney, where he acted as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in cases for the government, according to his resume. He also briefly worked as the healthcare compliance director for the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson, according to his resume. Leven has degrees from Syracuse University College of Law and Ithaca College.

Leven, who grew up in West Islip, recently moved to Riverhead from Bridgewater, New Jersey. He said he purchased a home in Riverhead with plans to build a home in Baiting Hollow. 

He has made the town’s sale of more than 1,600 acres of industrial land at EPCAL to Calverton Aviation & Technology the focal point of his campaign — along with the rest of the Democratic ticket — calling the deal and the potential development of an air cargo logistics hub at the site bad for the town. (The Town Board voted to cancel the contract with CAT on Tuesday, Oct. 24.)

Leven said the Town Board’s mishandling of the EPCAL deal is a “prism through which to look at the performance of our current administration” and why the Democratic ticket should be elected.

He opposes the current zoning of the EPCAL site and said he would like to see it developed with uses of moderate or low intensity.

He said he wants to understand the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency before he forms an opinion about the agency. He said he prioritizes law enforcement and public safety.

Read our interview with Leven here.

Denise Merrifield (R)

Denise Merrifield, of Wading River, is a former Suffolk County assistant district attorney with 30 years of service, including three years as deputy bureau chief of the major crime bureau and seven years as deputy bureau chief of the child abuse and domestic violence bureau, according to her resume. She retired in 2018. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Touro College- Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center and is a judicial referee at  Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead, according to her resume. She served a brief two weeks as the town’s deputy supervisor in 2020 when Supervisor Yvette Aguiar entered office.

Merrifield has degrees from Albany Law School and Stony Brook University. She is a member of the Riverhead Republican Committee and was its secretary prior to accepting the Republican nomination for a town council seat. 

Merrifield said she supports development in industrial zoned areas in Calverton, but does not want to see “mega warehouses” within the town. She said she supports following what is in the town’s comprehensive plan update to guide future development — including within EPCAL.

Merrifield opposes the dissolution of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, but supports pending state legislation to prohibit IDAs from granting school district property tax exemptions. 

She said she believes the town has done “more than their fair share” trying to make housing affordable. She said she would not support passing a local law to put a referendum on the ballot to add an additional .5% real estate transfer tax for town-led affordable housing initiatives.

Merrifield has also made opposition to resettling migrants in Riverhead a tenet of her campaign. She maintains the people present a health, safety and financial risk.

Read our interview with Merrifield here.

Rene Suprina (D)

Rene Suprina, of Riverhead, is a former music educator and district music coordinator, having retired from the Southold school district. 

She has a degree in music from SUNY Potsdam, and degrees in fine arts and school administration from Stony Brook University, according to her resume.

Suprina said top priorities in office would be public safety, and that the town should have more visible cameras and better lighting in downtown Riverhead. She said more events should be held in downtown Riverhead. 

Suprina said affordability is a problem in Riverhead and wants there to be a conversation about affordable housing in Riverhead. She said she would support passing a local law to put a referendum on the ballot to add an additional .5% real estate transfer tax for town-led affordable housing initiatives.

She said she would support a town-wide moratorium while the town finishes its comprehensive plan update. She said she would rely on experts to revise zoning around town and the town should have a public input process to create a new plan for EPCAL. She said she opposes an airport at EPCAL and opposed the town selling the runways to a developer.   

Suprina prides herself on being “able to work with almost anybody.” She believes the current group of people in charge has become “complacent” and does not listen to the public. She said town government should be an “open environment where people feel safe to come in and share their views,” which she said is not the environment in Town Hall under the current administration.

Read our interview with Suprina here.

Joann Waski (R) 

Joann Waski, of Jamesport,  is currently the chairperson of the Riverhead Planning Board, a role she was appointed to in November 2021. She is also the chairperson of the Riverhead Board of Assessment Review. 

Waski is the president of Peconic Abstract, a real-estate title company founded by her father with an office in Riverhead. She has worked for the company since 1988 and took over running the business in 2008, according to her resume.

Waski was a member of the Riverhead Republican Committee from 2012-2020, including a stint as vice chairperson from 2017-2020. She graduated from Riverhead High School and briefly attended Endicott College in Massachusetts for business administration. 

As chairperson of the Riverhead Planning Board, Waski is tasked with presiding over the board that handles commercial site plan and land subdivision applications throughout the town of Riverhead, other than those held within the town’s designated urban renewal areas (EPCAL and downtown Riverhead.) She is also serving on the comprehensive plan update steering committee.

During her tenure as Planning Board chairperson, the board has had to contend with several controversial projects in Calverton, including the HK Ventures industrial park along Route 25 and NorthPoint’s Riverhead Logistics Center on Middle Road. She also cast a vote against the expansion of Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, which resulted in the rejection of an expansion, and cast the deciding vote to grant site plan approval to an already-built expansion, without permits, of the Riverhead Ciderhouse, an application that drew strong community opposition. 

She was also a member of the Planning Board when it recommended last year that the Town Board impose a moratorium on industrial development in the town and halt the processing of applications for development. The Town Board ended up rejecting the Planning Board’s recommendation, but is now considering a moratorium nearly a year later.

Waski, as the vice chairperson of the Republican Party, initially supported the deal to sell the town-owned EPCAL land to Calverton Aviation & Technology, but said she pulled her support this past year after the company proposed a “jetport.” She said she wants the town to maintain ownership of the runways and would prefer the town lease out the land at EPCAL. She said she would support motorsports at the site and thinks larger industrial development should be kept within the EPCAL site. She supports the current zoning district for the EPCAL site — the Planned Development zoning district — which allows all uses that promote economic development, most as of right and a few by special permit of the Town Board.

Waski is also against the dissolution of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, an act supported by two of the three Democratic candidates running this year. 

Read our interview with Waski here.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com