After 25 year career with town, Riverhead clerk won’t seek reelection

“People always say, ‘You’ll know when you’re ready to retire,’ ” Riverhead Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm said in an interview last Thursday. “I’m ready.” 

Ms. Wilhelm said she plans to retire when her term is up at the end of December. 

“I’ve been with the town for 25 and 1/2 years,” she said. “I was in the assessors office for a year and then I worked in the town clerk’s office after that. 

“I worked for Barbara Grattan for nine years and then I became town clerk.”

Ms. Wilhelm has served as the elected town clerk for 14 years. “I think I started in July of 1998,” she said. “It’s a great job.”

During that time she’s digitized many of the town’s records, including Town Board minutes, which go back as far as 1792, and are now on the town’s website in their entirety.

“That’s as far as you possibly can go, because the town was founded in 1792,” she said. 

Many of the older resolutions were photographed rather than scanned because the scanned files were harder to read, she said.

The town clerk’s office also began accepting credit cards under Ms. Wilhelm. 

“There’s many different hats you wear in this job,” she said. These include being the records management officer, as well the registrar of vital statistics.

She’s also a marriage officer and a notary. 

Ms. Wilhelm’s colleagues in the clerk’s office say they will miss her. “She’s just the most amazing boss and person, ever,” said Carol Del Vecchio, who works in the town clerk’s office as a senior account clerk. “We love coming into work and working with her. She’s understanding and fair and very dedicated to the office.”

“We don’t want her to retire, but we’re happy for her,” said Deputy Town Clerk Julie O’Neill. “Most people don’t like coming to work. We love coming to work.”

It’s not known yet who will replace Ms. Wilhelm as clerk, which is an elected position. The Riverhead Republicans screened former Councilman Jim Wooten and Diane Tucci for clerk, with Mr. Wooten getting the nod. 

The Riverhead Democrats screened their candidates on Saturday, according to Laura Jens-Smith, the Democratic committee chair. 

The Riverhead Democrats had only two elected officials until recently, Highway Superintendent George Woodson and Ms. Wilhelm. Mr. Woodson did not run for reelection in 2021 and the highway supervisor post is now held by Republican Mike Zaleski, who had been Mr. Woodson’s deputy. 

Ms. Wilhelm said she’s looking forward to retiring. 

“I’m going to spend more time with my family and hopefully travel a little bit,” she said. “I am going to just enjoy the freedom, and take the time to enjoy retirement. Whoever comes into this seat, I wish them luck.”