Riverhead is a place where everybody knows your name -- and Anthony Coates would like to stay true to the small-town values that define the town.
Coates, 52, said recently that he had big political news to unveil; on Thursday, he announced his candidacy for Riverhead town board at a press conference held at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn.
"Riverhead voters need to shake up the system and vote differently," Coates said.
Coates, 52, is a member of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, a former investment manager and current political advisor to Walter.
In his speech last week, Coates outlined the reasons why he is stepping up to run for town board.
Coates recalled his childhood, a time when New York was the Empire State and John F. Kennedy was in the White House. "We all cared about our community," he said. "You knew your neighbor's name; we believed in things. Life wasn't done in text messages. Riverhead is still that kind of place."
Riverhead, Coates, has held on tightly to "old-school values. It's in the way you greet an old friend at Papa Nick's. A neighborly wave when you pass a friend. You know exactly why you live here when you drive by a majestic farm on Sound Avenue on a perfect summer's day. Ours is a great town, with great people. The kind of place where you can live life in full measure."
But, Coates added, "I don't think our current government is as good as our people."
Coates said he does not believe elected officials are working as hard as they can. "I don't feel the spirit. I see closed doors in town hall and often absent officials. I see a local government that is disengaged and disinterested. I see elected officials whose principal call to duty is the paycheck they collect, their personal health benefits and how they can build their pension. Yesterday's reformer is part of today's problem. There is too much lip service and old excuses, tap dancing, explanations and justification of the status quo."
Coates said the current town board, which calls itself "conservative," is far from it. "You cannot use 200 Howell Avenue as a hiring hall to employ your friends and family and claim you carry the banner of Ronald Reagan," he said.
Also, Coates said in a town that should operate like "Mayberry," elected officials become bureaucratic and don't listen to one another. "Supervisor Walter offers initiatives and the town board fights like kids in the sandlot. It's hard to tell Channel 22 from the World Wrestling Channel," Coates said.
Coates said while the town board bickers, the real work is being done by residents such as Denise Lucas, who has worked tirelessly to move the animal shelter and open the town's dog parks, and Amy Davidson and Laurie Nigro, who created the town's community garden.
"Once again, Riverhead's great people lead," Coates said. The board, he added, follows. "But that's not the way it's supposed to be. This town board should lead and instead, it is without accomplishment. You have to call out to the local golf course to raise a quorum to vote. The old boy and old girls network always seems to win. It's the same ole, same ole. I have to call it like I see it; our local government has gotten lethargic and lazy, tired and unresponsive and it needs a shaking up."
Coates, explaining why he has chosen to run for town board in 2012, said, "I am running because I know we can do better."
If elected, Coates said he realizes politics is a "tough" business. "But I also know that one individual, driven by passion, can move the world. I am not part of the club. I don't belong to any committee. I am independent and I will lead and I can promise you one thing, I will work my heart out for the town I love."
Among his goals, Coates said, are ending the "logjam at EPCAL," bringing jobs to Calverton -- and to continue the renewal of downtown Riverhead.
"I will be as cheap with your tax dollars as I am with my own and I will work to preserve our rural character so this place doesn't resemble just anyplace. And if I am lucky enough to be your councilman, I'll work in Town Hall till the last light goes out at night and be there in the morning to turn them on again because the people of Riverhead deserve nothing less," Coates said.