We’re fortunate enough to live in an area where our elected officials work like elected officials – not politicians. We hear from them on the campaign trail, and we see them and hear from them once they’re in office. It’s the beauty not only of local politics – as elected officials will more than likely accurately represent their constituents – but it’s also the beauty of interacting with electeds in Suffolk County, where retail politics goes a much longer way than in other forms of government.
But we feel that Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R-Kings Park) and elected officials on the Town and State levels from Smithtown have truly gone above and beyond in securing the much-needed Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) funding for Kings Park.
The tenacity and planning required to win the top prize in one of the most competitive statewide grants is fortunately seen on display with some of our other local elected officials, such as Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter (R-West Islip) – most recently in the form of the Central Islip sewer grants – and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Center Moriches) – notably in the form of a $4.5 million New York Forward grant for North Bellport.
Wehrheim and company’s year-after-year appeals to Albany, as well as cooperation with the Town Board, civic groups, and the community at-large, to craft a master plan for Smithtown and its hamlets and villages cannot be understated. Moreover, such effort and belief in a community should not be underscored when it comes to Smithtown, a place where people looked past for recreation and family-rearing, and where ideas of development and progress came to die.
Former Supervisor Pat Vecchio currently holds the record for the longest-served municipal governor in the history of the United States. With forty years at the Town’s highest post, Vecchio made more friends than enemies, but mainly due to his lack of vision for his Town and his inaction in ensuring the Town could sustain itself economically in the distant future. It’s logical that not making chances means not being controversial, which means you keep most of your friends. But it turns out that not making changes is not equal to good governance. It’s this dichotomy that led to his primary by then-Councilman Wehrheim in 2017. The historic defeat earned Wehrheim not only the chagrin of Vecchio loyalists but also the skepticism of the Town and County at-large, with many believing that such an ambitious vision for a Town like Smithtown was simply unrealistic.
Fast forward seven years and look where leadership under an active Supervisor and Board has landed the Town: smart, transit-oriented development, streets with beautification and traffic-calming measures, and a true vision for a master plan that has not been updated since the 1950s.
This was pointed out by Councilman Tom Lohmann (R-Smithtown) at the Town debate. He mentioned that the plan was written when the Town’s population had not yet more than quadrupled in size in a relatively short period of time. Although the Town’s exponential growth and expectation were not foreseen, cognizant development could have been the priorities of the Town government.
Despite decades of falling behind the other nine Suffolk townships in multiple ways, it seems there is a future after all, complemented with true perseverance and community pride from its leaders. These are leaders we’re fortunate to have and should be thrown a bone when most deserved.
Furthermore, Supervisor Wehrheim understands the concept of not cutting off his nose to spite his face. Although he – along with many other local elected officials of both parties – sparred with the Governor over her controversial overhaul of local zoning procedures last year, he did not let that interfere with his cooperation with her administration, nor did he tune her out when she intended to make good on a promise to reward smart development. The Supervisor remained tenacious in applying for this much-needed state funding and the Governor did not let differing opinions on governance prevent a staunchly Republican township from urgently-needed and much-deserved funding.
We applaud the leadership of Supervisor Wehrheim, the Smithtown Board, Senator Mario Mattera, Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, and even Governor Hochul for all understanding that the betterment and future of our communities are more than what the backs of our elected officials’ baseball cards say they are. We especially congratulate Supervisor Wehrheim for taking a road that has been somewhat rocky over the last seven years to make Smithtown a place to go rather than a place to end up.
We’re fortunate to have such elected officials at Town Hall and we believe with such leadership, Smithtown can continue to prove itself a Town worth fighting for.