Riverhead will have a new deputy supervisor for 2019.
The Riverhead Town Board voted 3-0 at its organizational meeting Thursday at Town Hall to appoint Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent as deputy supervisor. Kent, a Democrat, replaces Tim Hubbard, who was appointed to the position for a one-year term in January 2018.
Kent abstained from the vote and Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio was absent from the meeting.
Hubbard, a Republican, said Saturday that Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith called him the previous week and informed him of her decision to appoint Kent. Hubbard said Jens-Smith, a Democrat, told him she was facing “a lot of political pressure” to name Kent deputy supervisor. Hubbard, who remains on the board and will keep all his committee appointments, said he asked Jens-Smith last year to consider appointing him deputy supervisor because he felt he “could be a bridge between both sides.”
“I think it worked rather well, but . . . [Jens-Smith] said it was a difficult choice to make me . . .[deputy supervisor] because of political pressure,” Hubbard said, though he declined to speculate about the source of the pressure.
While saying he understood Jens-Smith’s decision, Hubbard added, “In my view, it wasn’t the best choice. I think it will isolate the two parties.”
Giglio, a Republican, said Wednesday she liked the job Hubbard had done and felt politics had played a role in the decision to appoint Kent.
“I think Tim did a great job as deputy supervisor, and he bridged the gap between the Democrats and Republicans,” Giglio said. “It’s a shame [that it is seen] that when the Republicans appoint people to certain positions, it’s all politics and when the Democrats appoint someone to a position strictly for political purposes, it’s not.”
Asked if her decision was politically motivated, Jens-Smith said Monday that while the town was heading into an election year, she and Hubbard had previously agreed he would fill the position for only one year. Jens-Smith said her decision to appoint Kent was based on Kent’s community work, including her tenure as the board’s liaison to Riverhead’s Downtown Revitalization Committee.
“I think having different members of the board who are experienced in that role [of deputy supervisor] is very healthy and beneficial to the board and to the town itself,” Jens-Smith said.
Jens-Smith said she didn’t feel Kent’s appointment would create any tension among the board members.
Kent, who said Jens-Smith had approached her about taking the position, agreed.
“We’ve done pretty well so far,” said Kent. “We don’t always agree, but we’ve been respectful to one another and that’s one of the things I want to see.”