August 23, 2023  

To Riverhead Town Councilman Kenneth Rothwell 

Dear Mr. Rothwell,

It would be a disappointment to have any elected official criticize or devalue the Riverhead Anti-Bias Task Force members and the work we do to promote and protect our community, but it is more disturbing that our own liaison would publicly state plans to ‘overhaul’ the ABTF without first privately having a discussion with us.

It is a disappointment to us that you would intentionally mischaracterize our members. Describing the Riverhead Anti-Bias Task Force membership as “all Caucasian women in the Democratic Party” is equally disturbing and patronizing and untrue. You have also offended the contributions of the men, including our own Police Chief Dave Hegermiller, who are equal participants.

You know from having attended a few meetings, we are not all Caucasian. We are not all women. We are not all Democrats.  And you sadly express your own bias, while saying ‘this isn’t political.’ True, we are the rare town committee without a Republican majority, but in keeping with who we are, our goal is to work together regardless of our different viewpoints.

You must also know that we have members of all major faiths including our Temple Israel liaison and our Riverhead Clergy Council member, further providing support and perspectives. We have one member who is bilingual and two Spanish speaking members, both personally familiar with the immigrant experience. Could we be more diverse?  Absolutely. Which is why we constantly outreach to individuals and communities to invite more residents to join us. That is how we came to having three new members, who have been waiting since January to be formally appointed.

The members of the Anti-Bias Task Force serve and support anyone who faces barriers or feels vulnerable in our town. This is why we have spoken at Town Board meetings in defense of marginalized groups. This is why we have actively created dozens of public events that share different perspectives and spotlight the challenges and celebrations of different cultures. This is why we’re hosting “What the Asylum Process Looks Like” at Riverhead Library on September 18th at 5:30. Because we work for Riverhead’s greater good.

Rather than point to what makes us different and try to diminish what we do, we ask you instead to commit to join us in support and in service; to look at our hearts and intentions rather than our gender, appearance or affiliations; and to see the value of the work we do in our community, rather than look to start over in the interest of optics. 

Cindy Clifford and Michele Lynch,
Riverhead Anti-Bias Task Force Co-Chairs

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East End Beacon
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