Riverhead Town Assessor Laverne Tennenberg, Councilwoman Catherine Kent, Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Highway Superintendent George "Geo" Woodson at the inauguration New Year's Day.
Riverhead Town Assessor Laverne Tennenberg, Councilwoman Catherine Kent, Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Highway Superintendent George “Geo” Woodson at the inauguration New Year’s Day.

Riverhead Town Inaugurated its first-ever female town supervisor Jan. 1, in a packed ceremony at Pulaski Street School.

Laura Jens-Smith, who upset four-term incumbent town supervisor Sean Walter in November’s election, will be the town’s 62nd supervisor.

Ms. Jens-Smith spoke briefly at the ceremony, vowing never to give up fighting for the people of Riverhead, sharing a story she’d heard Admiral William McRaven tell in a commencement address about getting through Navy SEAL training. 

She said the training “tests not just physical strength, the mental character but the sheer will to endure. Many don’t make it, and getting out is easy,” she said. “They only have to ring the bell in the center of the compound. Ring that bell and they can go home, stopping brutal days and nights of physical, mental and psychological abuse. They can surrender. They can give up. And they can walk away. But what the admiral says is, if you want to change the world, you can never give up.”

“Two years ago I ran for office, and while I didn’t succeed then, I didn’t give up either,” she said. “And today I am proud and grateful to be standing here as the first woman supervisor in our town’s history.”

“The admiral also pointed out that, to truly effect change, you cannot do it alone. I believe in Riverhead, and all of us being here with you today, we all believe in Riverhead,” she added. “If we truly want to make our town better, we all need to help each other and we all need to work together.”

“We must all work hard to be our very best. And you can all just be sure that we will never ring that bell.”

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Rev. Cynthia Ligon, the associate pastor of Riverhead’s First Baptist Church, served as the master of ceremonies. She told the crowd that Riverhead is “filled with possibilities” as the town goes into its 226th year. She urged the newly sworn in officials to “stand on the side of justice and inclusiveness, to make good choices for all our people.”

The Riverhead ROTC, Riverhead Cub Scout Pack 4041, Girl Scout Troop 3651, the Butterfly Effect Project and the First Baptist Church Choir participated in the ceremony, along with a signed performance of “You Raise Me Up” by students from the last class of incoming Councilwoman Catherine Kent, a recently retired teacher from the Riley Avenue Elementary School.

The National Anthem was sung by Lauren Anasky of Riverhead High School, followed by an invocation by Reverend Mary Cooper of the House of Praise Christian Revival Center.

The ceremony included the swearing in of elected and re-elected officials, including Ms. Jens-Smith, Ms. Kent and incumbent Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, along with Highway Superintendent George Woodson and Town Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.

The First Baptist Church Choir sang “God Bless America,” then reminded Ms. Jens-Smith that her path won’t always be easy, singing the gospel song “Stand,” about how, when you’ve done all you can do to make things right, sometimes the only thing left to do is stand firm in your beliefs.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate gave the closing benediction, praying for “wisdom in abundance” for the new town leaders as they begin their work.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

2 thoughts on “Riverhead Inaugurates First Female Town Supervisor

  1. Good luck to Jens-Smith – Riverhead certainly needs a fresh approach since it’s the poorest Town on Long island with the highest taxes.

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