Paul Leszczynski, who has served Riverhead Town as an assessor for 21 years, is celebrating his first day of retirement Jan.1 in Naples, Florida.
Leszczynski, 73, of Aquebogue, was first elected to the assessor post in a special election in November 1998, when former assessor Leroy Barnes Jr. resigned to become the town building inspector. He was elected to a four-year term in his own right in November 1999. He was re-elected four more times after that.
“I really enjoyed the work,” Leszczynski said in a phone interview today. “I enjoyed getting out and seeing all the different parts of Riverhead,” he said, adding “I love my colleagues.”
Looking back on more than two decades in office, Leszczynski said the building boom of the 2000s “put a lot of pressure on the assessors’ office.” As time went on, the assessors accumulated more responsibilities and have had to deal with more regulations from the state.
“The state kept dumping more stuff on us but not compensating the town for it,” he said.
“To be able to help people with their senior exemptions, for example, you almost have to be an accountant,” Leszczynski said. “I give the staff in our office a lot of credit,” he said.
Leszczynski’s responsibilities in the office included all the field work, plus handling the agricultural exemption program, which takes in 550 or so parcels in the town. They have to be renewed every year, he said. He was also tasked with approving all the basic and enhanced STAR exemptions, senior exemptions and veterans exemptions.
“Once the receiver of taxes sends out her Christmas cards,” he said with a chuckle, referring to the town tax bills, things around the office get a little crazy.
Leszczynski worked for a title company for 18 years prior to becoming an assessor. He had experience searching deeds, mortgages, taxes and the like. He also worked in the funeral business for about 10 or 12 years.
After the sudden passing of his first wife in 1998, he took a hiatus and thought about pursuing a different career path. The opportunity to run for assessor presented itself and he screened with the Republican Party for the nomination. The rest is history.
The Vietnam-era Green Beret veteran is active in the American Legion and Riverhead Elks lodge.
He and his wife, Linda Hulse, are getting settled into their condominium in a community near Marco Island. “I’m enjoying the nice weather and working on my ‘honey-do’ list,” Leszczynski said.
“We’re planning to be snow birds,” he said.
Riverhead has an elected, three-member board of assessors who serve four-year terms. Meredith Lipinsky of Wading River was elected to the assessor post in November. Incumbent Mason Haas of Jamesport was elected to a fourth term in November. Laverne Tennenberg of Riverhead, first elected as assessor in 1989, has served as chairperson of the board of assessors since 1997. She is currently in the middle of her eighth term of office.
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