Highway Superintendent Pete Harris, who became the only elected Democrat in town government after former councilman Al Krupski was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature earlier this year, shocked his party Wednesday morning by announcing he won’t seek re-election.
Mr. Harris’ decision came just hours before the party’s scheduled nominating convention Wednesday evening.
“It’s time,” said Mr. Harris, 60. “It was a very difficult decision, but at the end of the day it was the right decision for me and my family.”
Mr. Harris is in his 12th year as head of the highway department. During the previous 24 years he was the state Department of Transportation’s highway maintenance supervisor responsible for Southold and Shelter Island towns. He started as a laborer, a job he held for three years.
Although he ran unopposed four years ago, Mr. Harris would have faced Republican Vincent Orlando, a former town councilman, in the fall.
Southold Democratic leader Art Tillman said he’s sorry to see Mr. Harris go.
“He ran a good department under a lot of budgetary constraints,” he said. “He’s a good man.”
Mr. Harris says his crews more than rose to the challenge, especially during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Hurricane Sandy last fall and this past winter’s blizzard.
“I’m very proud of the job I’ve done,” he said. “I only hope whoever follows in my footsteps can do as good a job as my staff and I have done in the last 12 years.”