Duffy retiring from Southold assessor post

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Town Assessor Darline Duffy on election night 2011.

In an unusual move, Town Assessor Darline Duffy will step down next month, more than two and a half years before her current term expires, to enter the world of retail sales.

Town Board members have no plans to appoint a temporary replacement, leaving Southold without one of its three assessors and its state Assembly representative until the November elections.

The Assembly seat has been open since Republican Dan Losquadro was elected Brookhaven highway superintendent in March. Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not publicly addressed the vacancy, local political leaders from both sides of the aisle say it appears unlikely that the governor will call a special election.

Ms. Duffy, an assessor since 1991, is retiring May 31 to buy a North Fork shop. She declined to identify it, saying the transaction has yet to be completed.

“A friend who is retiring and leaving the state is ready to sell the store,” she said. “An opportunity like that doesn’t come around every day.”

Ms. Duffy said she initially intended to serve out her current term without seeking re-election in 2015, “but the business opportunity might not have been available then.”

Her imminent departure means all three town assessor positions will be on the ballot in the fall, the first time in recent memory that has occurred. Whoever wins Ms. Duffy’s seat will be sworn in as soon as the election results are certified, said Supervisor Scott Russell.

“Darline will be sorely missed, as a friend, as a public official,” said Mr. Russell, a former assessor who began his political career the same year Ms. Duffy first ran. “I don’t believe you’ll meet a public official who has more empathy for the public she was serving. And she knew her stuff.”

Mr. Russell said the Town Board believes the two remaining assessors, Bob Scott and Kevin Webster, can handle the office by themselves in the short term, leaving no need for a special election.

Mr. Scott said he was shocked to hear his fellow assessor is retiring.

“I’m very sorry to see that she’s leaving, I really am,” he said. “She’s been a credit to the office and a credit to the town. It’s a loss, but I wish her well.”

The open position “will make way for someone else to start a new career,” said Ms. Duffy, who worked in real estate before running for offi ce. “I feel privileged to have served my community, but it’s time for me to do something different.”

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