Riverhead supervisor Yvette Aguiar was honored by the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with its supervisor of the year award at the group’s first annual Latino leaders luncheon on Wednesday.
The luncheon, attended by about 400 people at the Crescent Club in Bayville, was meant to celebrate “outstanding community leaders, advocates and business professionals,” according to the organization’s website. This is the first year the organization has hosted an in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“It was an incredible honor to receive such an award,” Aguiar said in an interview on Friday. “It made me believe that all my hard work paid off and people recognize that.”
“People who recognized me on Wednesday who I’ve worked closely with on many fronts, and it’s good to see the collaboration,” she said and added, “people are learning that Riverhead is on solid and financially stable foundations.”
Aguiar said she gave a “heartfelt” speech at the event, where she spoke about her parents and her upbringing. She also said she talked about her “journey from being a little girl who didn’t speak English in her early years” and how she became a city overseer.
“People told me it was very inspiring,” Aguiar said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, the presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee, surprised Aguiar by presenting him, in person, with a Special Recognition Certificate from Congress for “outstanding and invaluable service to the community.”
“I didn’t know he was going to be there, it was a really good surprise,” Aguiar said.
Aguiar also received a certificate of appreciation from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Aguiar, a Republican, is entering her third year as Riverhead Town Supervisor. She was re-elected to a second term last November, when she won a landslide victory over Democrat Catherine Kent, securing 59% of the total vote.
Of Puerto Rican descent, she is the first Latina to be elected in Suffolk County to the position of city supervisor.
“When I ran for supervisor, I ran with a vision for Riverhead and moving Riverhead forward, a mantra that I still maintain,” she said. “I’m very inclusive, I reached out to all people in Riverhead and as a result I was re-elected with overwhelming results.”
Prior to working in government, Aguiar spent 20 years with the New York Police Department, rising to the rank of Detective Sergeant.
She earned her PhD in Business Administration from Northcentral University in 2011, as well as a Masters in Public Administration and a Bachelors in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Aguiar is a member of the Riverhead Lions, Elks and Moose clubs and volunteers as a “puppy raiser” for the Guide Dog Foundation located in Smithtown.
Gary Vogel, an Aquebogue resident and managing partner of East Coast Nurseries, a 173-acre nursery in Riverhead that grows ornamental landscape plants in containers and ships them to distributors throughout the eastern United States, said was honored by the chamber as employer of the year.
“Long Island’s Latino community is not just an economic engine that we all depend on, but a beautiful mosaic of cultures and personalities that enrich our lives in so many ways,” Vogel wrote. “It’s truly an honor to be recognized as a small part of the community.”
Aguiar and Vogel were two of the 10 winners selected. Other honorees include Suffolk County Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, Consul General of El Salvador on Long Island Henry Salgado, and Principal Cardiac Surgeon, Professor, and Director of Surgical Heart Failure System for Northwell Health Harold Fernandez, among others. .
Hispanic LI Chamber of Commerce President Luis A. Vazquez said in a message that they were “very fortunate to celebrate outstanding leaders in all industries, who prove us, despite adversity, through perseverance and hard work, that anything is possible”. He added that “each winner follows their passion which reinforces the traditions of integrity, innovation and respect in their field of work”.
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