Riverhead tax receiver retiring; Wooten on ‘short list’ for spot

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn at her desk in Riverhead Town Hall.

After 10 years on the job, Riverhead receiver of taxes Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn is retiring.

Not only that, Councilman James Wooten says he is among the candidates the Town Board is considering to appoint to fill the position, which would leave a Town Board spot open for a special election this November.

Ms. Wowak Heilbrunn, who lives in Wading River and has two grown daughters, began her career as a legislative aide and was appointed as receiver of taxes in April 2002. She won re-election that November and has served town taxpayers ever since.

“I just feel like I’m ready,” Ms. Wowak Heilbrunn said Wednesday afternoon. “Over the summer I just plan on being at my home and seeing friends.”

She will retire effective July 1.

She said that she’s enjoyed working closely with town residents during her decade of work for the town, and said that she was “fortunate” to have a caring and friendly staff to work with.

“[The office] is still a small hometown feel,” she said.

The Town Board will appoint a receiver of taxes to fill her position, and Mr. Wooten says he’s on a “short list” of candidates to take Ms. Wowak Heilbrunn’s place.

Mr. Wooten, who is in his first year of second four-year term, said he was approached by officials about the open position, and said he sees it as “an honor” to be considered.

“I’ve always been one-on-one with people,” he said. “[The position] totally fits my personality.”

Mr. Wooten said that though the position is full-time, it actually would give him more freedom to  volunteer with his church and other organizations.

If he was appointed, the new job would also let him spend more time at home with his family and 7-year-old daughter, he added.

“I love [being a councilman],” he said. “But to do it right comes with a lot of commitment.”

If Mr. Wooten is appointed as receiver of taxes, the Town Board could appoint a new councilperson to fill his term until November. Or, the the Town Board could operate with just four people.

Mr. Wooten would run in a special election in November to keep the receiver of taxes position, and there would be another special election to fill his council seat.

That would leave three town seats up for election on a non-local election year.

Justice Allen Smith is expected to run unopposed for his seat.

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