After seven terms, Justice Richard Ehlers not seeking re-election

Longtime Riverhead Town Justice Richard Ehlers will not be seeking re-election this fall.

Mr. Ehlers, who has been in office for 28 years, said he told his staff of his decision to not seek reelection on Tuesday and then notified the Riverhead Republican Committee at their meeting on Wednesday night.

“I thought about the fact that I did want to serve another four-year term and I felt that the right thing to do was to take my name out of the running,” Mr. Ehlers said. “I enjoyed the job, and it’s a very good town and a nice place to raise a family.”

Mr. Ehlers, whose decision not to run was first reported by RiverheadLocal on Thursday, was elected town justice in 1987 and has served seven four-year terms since then. Prior to that, he was the Town Attorney from 1982 to 1987, and he was an assistant district attorney for just under two years prior to that.

Mr. Ehlers also has a private law practice in Riverhead which he plans to continue. In addition to his justice position, Mr. Ehlers is also the attorney for the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, and he was the attorney for the town Planning Board in the past. His firm also serves as outside counsel for the town sewer and water districts.

R091108_Alexander1_TG_C.jpg“I have a grandchild now, so I’m looking to traveling to Oregon to visit her,” Mr. Ehlers said of his decision to not seek reelection. “It was a case of timing, as well, because if I want to run again, I’ve got to begin that process now, and I would be telling the voters now that I’d like to do four more years and I knew I did not want to do four more years. I felt it was time for me to retire.”

“I’m happy for Judge Ehlers,” said Riverhead Republican Committee chairman Mason Haas. “He’s going to get to enjoy time with his family. We’re very beholden to him for the service that he’s done to the town.  He was dedicated to his job, and he’s been very fair person on the bench.”

Mr. Haas said the Republicans are holding screenings for positions up for election, regardless of whether they are currently held by a Republican. The committee will screen candidates for supervisor, two council positions, town clerk, tax receiver, two assessors and a town justice position.

The screening committee is being led by committee vice chair Vic Prusinowski, since Mr. Haas’s assessor term is up for reelection this fall as well.

Anyone interested must send a resume and indicate what office they seek to screen for by mail or email by Feb. 20, and the committee will probably begin conducting screenings in the first week of March, Mr. Haas said.

Resumes can be sent by mail to Riverhead Town Republican Committee, PO Box 1428, Riverhead NY 11901, or by email to [email protected].

John Stefans, the chairman of the Riverhead Democratic Committee screening committee, said they plan to run an advertisement in the News-Review soon announcing their schedule for candidate screenings.

“We’re just starting the process,” he said.

There is only one incumbent Democrat up for reelection this fall, and that’s Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm. Republicans hold the others posts up for reelection.

Former Supervisor Phil Cardinale, a Democrat, said he had considered running for town justice when he was a councilman following the death of Henry Saxtein in 2000, but decided to keep his council position.

“I at one time did have an interest, but I’m, not interested now because I am in the process of spending a lot of time out of state,” Mr. Cardinale said. “I’m sorry to hear that (Mr. Ehlers) is leaving. It’s an important position and I really think he did a good job.”