Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen has decided not to seek re-election.
Gabrielsen announced his intention in a letter he emailed late last night to the Riverhead Republican Committee, a copy of which was obtained by RiverheadLOCAL this morning.
“I am no longer seeking the nomination for Riverhead Town Council,” the councilman wrote. “With the obligations of our family farm operation and other new business commitments, I am unable to devote the time that the Town Council position requires and the residents of this town expect and deserve.”
Gabrielsen did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Republican party leader Mason Haas said this morning he’d found the councilman’s email in his inbox this morning and is “very surprised by this sudden turn of events.”
“It came out of left field,” Haas said. “There was no prior indication of this. I don’t know what this is about.”
The councilman was the top vote-getter in his first re-election bid in November 2011. He had been appointed to the Town Board in 2009 to fill a vacancy created when former councilman Tim Buckley stepped down, and was elected that year to fill out the remaining two years of Buckley’s term.
Gabrielsen had been through the Republican committee’s screening process, Haas said. The supervisor and town board candidates were scheduled to meet with the full committee tonight, he said.
“George’s service has been outstanding,” Haas said. “He has been very valuable to the town council.”
The terms of Gabrielsen and fellow incumbent Republican Councilman James Wooten expire this year. Both were seeking their party’s nomination for re-election.
Wooten said in an interview this morning Gabrielsen told him of his decision after last night’s town board meeting.
“I was definitely shocked,” Wooten said. “He is weighing responsibility to the town job with his own business and family responsibilities,” he said. “He’s out plowing the fields at 9 o’clock at night with the lights on. I respect George for his decision. I fully understand it and wish him well.”
Wooten said he’s heard that the committee was wavering in its support of all three incumbents this year. “Tonight I get to speak to the committee myself,” he said.
Republican Supervisor Sean Walter, who is facing a challenge from Councilwoman Jodi Giglio in his bid for re-election to a fourth two-year term, also could not be reached for comment this morning.
The complete text of Gabrielsen’s letter:
Riverhead Republican Committee,
I am no longer seeking the nomination for Riverhead Town Council.
With the obligations of our family farm operation and other new business commitments, I am unable to devote the time that the Town Council position requires and the residents of this town expect and deserve.
I am proud of my service and accomplishments, including the opening of Veterans Memorial Park(EPCAL) and the opening and rebuilding of many of the parks throughout Riverhead. I have actively participated in the development plan for EPCAL, including the creation of an energy park within EPCAL which will likely be the first portion of the EPCAL subdivision to deliver economic benefits for the residents.
I would be willing to volunteer my time and expertise to continue the development of the EPCAL Energy Park.
I’ve been a voice for the agriculture community and responsible for creating the Wildlife Management Committee.
I am proud to have worked with this Town Board these past five years in changing the face of Riverhead.
I want to thank the Riverhead Republican Committee for their support.
Councilman George E. Gabrielsen
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