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Wehrheim

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

More than a year into his first term in office, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) believes his administration has brought a renewed sense of energy and purpose to Town Hall. 

Wehrheim took over the reins from former Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) — a man who once held the title of New York’s longest active serving town supervisor after 40 years in office — in January 2018. The move came after Wehrheim narrowly beat Vecchio in a party primary that deeply divided Republicans in the township, before securing the office with 57 percent of the vote over two challengers. 

TBR News Media sat down with Wehrheim in an exclusive interview to review his performance on 2017 campaign promises and the status of the township.

“I came in, kept the same people here, and made them understand what my initiatives were and how I operate.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“I would give myself an A,” Wehrheim said. “I’ve gotten out to the Smithtown community and business community on what we are  doing and the feedback that I’ve gotten has been consistently positive.” 

One of the first challenges the new supervisor faced was how to unite a Republican town board and administration that had been split into opposing camps during the 2017 election process. 

“I did not come in and make a lot of changes, which I could have done,” Wehrheim said. “I came in, kept the same people here, and made them understand what my initiatives were and how I operate.” 

One of his pledges had been to create town government for Smithtown that was more transparent to its residents. Wehrheim appointed Nicole Garguilo as the town’s first spokeswoman within days of his swearing-in and has ensured live streaming of town board meetings. A mobile phone app was launched in August 2018 to keep residents up to the minute with the latest public safety notices, but a complex town meeting agenda
he once criticized as “75 items, labeled A to ZZ, and nobody understands that” he admits has changed little. 

“People have to remember we inherited a government that had zero transparency,” Wehrheim said. “Not many people outside it, and sometimes not even town council people, would know what was happening. We couldn’t fix it immediately.”

For 2019, the supervisor is focused on restructuring the town’s website and said an updated town agenda was available Jan. 24, with more to come in once the website revisions are made. 

Wehrheim made promises during the 2017 elections to revive “long dormant downtown
revitalization” projects including sewers for Kings Park and to bring apartments to Smithtown. He said the town’s Nov. 30, 2018, report found there have been 2.1 million square feet of commercial development that’s begun or is permitted and ready to begin construction. The supervisor has worked with Suffolk County to complete an engineering study for sewering downtown Kings Park, which has been stymied by the state Legislature’s unwillingness to vote on a home rule bill that would isolate a necessary piece of land needed to construct a pump station. 

“People have to remember we inherited a government that had zero transparency.”

— Ed Wehrheim

He said received assurances from state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-East Northport) and Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) will be taking up the legislation, hopefully for a vote shortly.

Wehrheim had led the town in approving construction of Lofts at Maple & Main, which has all approvals needed to bring a mixed-used building containing 9,500 square feet of retail space and 72 apartments to Smithtown’s Main Street. He hopes this will help address “brain drain” on Long Island and be a move toward creating a walkable downtown environment. 

In St. James, the town has more than $8 million set aside for revitalization with sewers, water mains and improved streetscaping. He’s also brokered a promise with Gyrodyne LLC to expand the sewer treatment plant for proposed Flowerfield property development to accommodate the Lake Avenue business district. 

Large-scale commercial developments approved under Wehrheim’s tenure include CarMax taking over the Smithtown Concrete Plant on Route 25 and Tesla renovating the former 6th Avenue Electronics on Route 247 in Nesconset.

One thing Smithtown’s supervisor has yet to get around to is creating the business advisory council. Wehrheim has promised interviews for an executive board are underway as of January.

“There’s always room for improvement, there’s not a question about that,” he said. “At this particular time, it’s going well, and I’m sure down the road we will improve more.” 

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By David Luces

Smithtown residents, who have ever had ideas for what downtown Smithtown or Commack’s future should look like, have been asked to contribute their 2 cents or give two hours of their time.

The Town of Smithtown announced plans Feb. 5 to update its Comprehensive Master Plan and is looking for community input to define the vision of the town’s hamlets present and future. 

Residents will be able to participate through a series of public workshops, an interactive website, survey and public hearings. 

“I truly believe that every resident should have the chance to voice his or her vision for our community,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Creating a process where they will have the opportunity to help shape their hometown hamlet by design, is the very definition of the people’s government.”

“Creating a process where they will have the opportunity to help shape their hometown hamlet by design, is the very definition of the people’s government.”

—Ed Wehrheim

The topics covered by the town’s comprehensive plan will include: community plans for each hamlet, land use, transportation, parking, community facilities, sustainability and future capital improvements.  

The town has launched a new website with specific details that outline the project at www.PublicInput.com/Smithtown, where it will address frequently asked questions and will be posting updates moving forward. Community residents can choose to complete an extensive online survey providing feedback on what aspects are most important and what areas the town needs the most improvement. 

Community workshops for individual hamlets will start March 7; see complete list below. Residents are encouraged to attend the community workshops in their respective hamlets to give input toward the immediate and long-term approach for growth, development, protection and community enhancement. 

“No stone will be left unturned when it comes to planning the future of our township,” Councilman Tom McCarthy (R), liaison to the Planning Department said. “This comprehensive plan will serve as a guide, not just for us but for our children and grandchildren.”

The town anticipates the new Comprehensive Master Plan will be completed by the end of 2019. 

Community Workshops Date

● Smithtown: March 7, 7-9 p.m. at Smithtown senior center located at 420 Middle Country Road 

● Nesconset: March 12, 7-9 p.m. at Great Hollow Middle School, located at 150 Southern Blvd.

● Hauppauge: March 19, 7-9 p.m. at Pines Elementary School, located at 22 Holly Drive

● St. James: March 27, 7-9 p.m. at St. James Elementary School, 580 Lake Ave. 

● Commack: April 4, 7-9 p.m. at Commack High School’s art gallery, located at 1 Scholar Lane

● Kings Park: April 11, 7-9 p.m. at Kings Park High School, located at 200 Route 25A

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Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Town Board candidates vying for a Republican spot on the ballot in November learned their fate on Tuesday as the Suffolk County Board of Elections tallied up the remaining absentee ballots, but there were no surprises.

As reported last week, Councilman Bob Creighton (R) came in third place out of three candidates seeking the Republican line in November’s general election, while the other two, incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) and challenger Lisa Inzerillo came in first and second, respectively. Those results stood by Tuesday evening, but perhaps in a more disappointing fashion, as Creighton’s 1,306 vote tallies came in just 82 votes behind Inzerillo’s 1,388, the county Board of Elections said. Wehrheim led the pack with 1,830 votes.

In the initial aftermath of the primary vote earlier this month, Wehrheim had collected 40.49 percent of the vote — 1,673 total votes — and Inzerillo earned 31.27 percent, or 1,292 total votes. Creighton, who has served on the Town Board since 2008, came in close behind Inzerillo with 27.81 percent — 1,149 votes. In an interview after the primary election and before the absentee ballots had been counted, Creighton told Times Beacon Record Newspapers that he did not expect absentee votes to push him over the edge.

“There are still some … absentee ballots to count, but I have no illusions about that,” Creighton said in a previous interview. “I lost, period.”

Inzerillo and Wehrheim will appear on November’s ballot as Republicans, and Creighton will still run for re-election, but on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines.

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year. The winners will join incumbents not up for re-election, Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick — all Republicans.