Riverhead Town Justice Richard Ehlers has announced he will retire from the bench at the end of his term this year.

Ehlers, first elected in 1987, told the Riverhead Republican Committee last night he will not seek re-election to an eighth four-year term.

“It’s been 28 wonderful years,” Ehlers told RiverheadLOCAL this morning. He said he’s enjoyed his time on the bench and his career in public service spanning more than 35 years. He previously served as a Suffolk County assistant district attorney and as Riverhead town attorney. He has served as counsel to the Riverhead Planning Board and is currently legal counsel to the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency. He also maintains a private law practice in Riverhead.

Ehlers, who will be 62 by the time his term of office expires Dec. 31, said it’s time for him to enjoy his new grandchild, who lives on the West Coast. He and his wife Susan are not planning to move, he said, but he’d like the freedom to be able to travel and see family.

“I’m about the age my father was when he retired and he lived to 91 — and had a hole in one in his eighties — so I’m hopeful,” Ehlers said.

He will continue his private law practice, he said, but is not willing to commit to another four-year term as town justice. Beyond that — and spending more time with the next generation — the judge said he has no firm plans.

“So let’s do this right. I wanted to let the committee know up front I don’t want to be considered, so other people who are interested have an opportunity to step forward,” Ehlers said. “I was the beneficiary of Judge Leonard’s very honest statement 28 years ago and I appreciated it.”

Ehlers said he first told the justice court clerks about his decision yesterday afternoon and went to the committee meeting last night “to inform the people who have supported me over the years and to thank them.”

Riverhead Republican Committee Chairman Mason Haas said the committee appreciated the judge’s candor and his service to the town.

“He’s been a fair, balanced, loyal and dedicated person working for the town for all these years, always keeping Riverhead first,” Haas said.

The committee is accepting resumes from people interesting in screening for all positions on the ballot in this local election year, Haas said, including positions held by Republican incumbents who’d like to seek re-election, he said. Haas is one of those incumbents and, as such, is not chairing the party’s screening committees. That duty will fall to vice-chairman Victor Prusinowski, Haas said.

In addition to the judgeship, town officials being elected this fall are town supervisor, two town councilmen, tax receiver, town clerk and two assessors.

The terms of incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter, council members James Wooten and George Gabrielsen, assessors Mason Haas and Paul Leszczynski and tax receiver Laurie Zaneski expire this year, as does the term of town clerk Diane Wilhelm, a Democrat.

Haas said resumes should be mailed to Riverhead Republican Committee, PO Box 1428, Riverhead NY 11901.


Photo caption: Riverhead Town Justice takes the oath of office, administered by his wife Susan, on Jan. 1, 2012, when he was sworn in for his seventh and final term on the town justice court. (Photo: Denise Civiletti)

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.