South Jamesport civic activist Angela DeVito has announced her candidacy for Riverhead Town Supervisor.
DeVito, a Democrat, told RiverheadLOCAL this weekend she wants to bring leadership to town hall that “isn’t distracted on a daily basis by party politics and drama and instead turns its attention to governance and good government for the benefit of all residents.”
“We need leadership in town hall that knows how to build consensus and not just throw rocks and point fingers at each other,” DeVito said in an interview at her home on Saturday. “Responsible leadership must find common ground to work together,” she said.
DeVito pointed to her record on the Riverhead Board of Education, on which she served from 2006-2011, and as president 2009-2010, as an example of her consensus-building skills.
“Brian Stark, Tim Griffing and I couldn’t have been on more opposite ends of the political spectrum,” she said. “Yet we worked collaboratively together for a very, very long time. Political party affiliations didn’t matter because we found common ground,” she said.
DeVito surprised the district administration and fellow board members when she announced her resignation from the board in June 2011. She didn’t provide any public explanations of the move, other than to say the school year had been “busy and difficult.”
Since she stepped down, she has been outspoken on school district issues and critical of the teachers union, writing as a contributing blogger on RiverheadLocal.com.
DeVito said one of the first orders of business as supervisor would be to engage the community more in town government.
“We have to stop polarizing our town’s residents and learn how to carefully and judiciously listen to all,” she said.
Riverhead, DeVito said, is slowly and surely taking positive steps forward. “A lot of good things are happening here,” she said. She finds the prospects for downtown revitalization “very encouraging,” but said the town needs to take action to make sure it can accommodate new development, with parking facilities, sewage treatment capabilities and a plan for the downtown waterfront.
DeVito believes Riverhead must become a better steward of local waterways.
“Riverhead is bordered by two national estuaries, but we don’t seem to have a cohesive plan for their protection,” DeVito said. Drainage pipes that empty into the bays and sound are unacceptable, she said. “We need to look very carefully at coastal development,” she said, “especially with rising sea levels.”
Town government is all to often reactionary to issues like these, according to DeVito.
DeVito will seek the Democratic, Working Families and Independence party nominations.
She said she believes there’s a good chance incumbent supervisor Sean Walter will not seek re-election this year.
“I think he believes he’s accomplished most of what he set out to do as supervisor and will move on,” she said. “He seems to have indicated that a number of times in public remarks.”
Not yet, the supervisor says.
“I have to finish the EPCAL subdivision and there are several loose ends to tie up on Main Street,” Walter said in response. “I do plan to run for re-election.
“Angela is a very smart woman who I happen to get along with very well,” he said. “I wish her luck. But not too much,” he said.
DeVito said she met with Riverhead Democratic Committee chairwoman Marge Acevedo last week to let her know her intentions. The party typically holds a nominating convention in May or June, but DeVito said she believes it’s important not to wait that long to begin campaigning and fundraising.
She said she is under no illusions that she has the Democratic nomination locked up, but said she is a strong candidate.
DeVito, 64, has a background in public health and occupational safety and health, and is recently retired as director of workforce development at the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk.
She grew up in Rocky Point, earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master of science in public health, cum laude, from the University of Utah medical school.
DeVito returned to Long Island in 1990 and lived in Mattituck before moving to South Jamesport in 2000. She has been active in the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, which she served as president from 2003 to 2005 and currently serves as corresponding secretary. She is a member of the town’s handicap committee and the animal shelter advisory committee. She served on the board of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency from 2009 to 2011.