Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) is leading the charge in an effort to shake up the town’s current government leaders.
The councilman has served since April 2003, when Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) appointed him to fill the seat left by now- NYS Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James.) In November, he’ll try to unseat the man who appointed him.
Wehrheim said he believes the town board needs some major changes.
Last month at the Smithtown Republican Convention, a surprise shocked many members when chairman Bill Ellis led the way for three new challengers — including Wehrheim — to get support from the party instead of Vecchio, and councilpeople Lynne Nowick (R) and Tom McCarthy (R.)
Wehrheim said the existing town board has a lack of transparency between members, which he would no longer tolerate if he were at the helm.
“If you leave board members out of discussions, the plans are doomed for failure,” Wehrheim said in a phone interview. “In my administration that wouldn’t happen. Teamwork is what gets it done.”
Of course, Wehrheim faces an uphill battle, as he’s running against a man who just recently had town hall named after him and has held the position for more than 30 years.
But Wehrheim said he is the candidate with the most government experience, serving since 1971 as director of parks, buildings and grounds. Within his tenure there, he managed an $8 million budget and worked with the other departments in Smithtown frequently.
“I thoroughly enjoyed helping people,” he said. “I gained a vast amount of experience in how the other government departments operate, and I put that knowledge to work when I joined the town board.”
During his four terms on the board, Wehrheim said he’s proud of the many projects he accomplished, including business development for the villages and hamlets.
The councilman worked to renovate the Smith Haven Mall, negotiated deals to develop stores on Crooked Hill Road in Commack, helped Whisper Vineyards set up shop in Smithtown and more to help increase tax revenues for the town.
“I have a good track record of making empty properties into something valuable and profitable for Smithtown,” he said.
With his parks background, Wehrheim said he has also worked hard to keep the beaches, parks and baseball fields of Smithtown up to par.
One major plan Wehrheim and his running mates, councilman candidates Bob Doyle and Tom Lohmann, hope to implement if elected is a business advisory council.
“We would bring members from the chambers, civic groups and local development businesses to the table when we want to make new development plans,” he said. The plan would foster distinctive and attractive communities with a strong sense of place, according to Wehrheim.
Ellis is an advocate for Wehrheim and said he has a lot of support within the Smithtown Republican Committee.
“He is the best man for the position,” he said in a phone interview.