Public service has always been at the heart of George Sullivan’s life. He served in the Marines during the Vietnam War and still bears the scar of that service: his left leg was amputated after being struck by enemy fire.
In his post-military life, he became an accountant, opened his own practice as a certified public accountant and became Southold Town tax receiver.
“I wanted to help people,” he said. “I kind of committed to service, both in the Marine Corps and in the town.”
For the first time in more than two decades, Southold Town residents will not find Mr. Sullivan’s name on the ballot when the November election rolls around. Mr. Sullivan, 75, said health reasons prompted him to retire from the role he enjoyed for so many years once his current term expires.
The Southold Town Republican Committee nominated Kelly Fogarty last week to run for the position. The Democratic Committee held its nominations and did not select a candidate for tax receiver.
Whoever ends up in the position, Mr. Sullivan said he will happily help with the transition.
“I’ll certainly help to explain the job as I know it and be of any assistance,” he said.
Mr. Sullivan called Ms. Fogarty to congratulate her on the nomination. He said she had worked for him as an accountant at his firm years ago. She went on to become a CPA and now runs her own practice in Mattituck.
“I know her very well,” he said.
Since the news began to spread of Mr. Sullivan’s decision to not seek re-election, he said he’s received some nice comments from people he knows thanking him for his service.
When he first became tax receiver, he served two terms and then bowed out as his deputy, Marilyn Quintana, took over in 1995. But after Ms. Quintana died of cancer several years later, he ran again for a special election to fill the void and then won four consecutive four-year terms after that.
In his personal business, he owned his own accounting practice until he decided to sell it in 1999. He took a few years off and then worked on a smaller basis up until 2014 when he suffered a heart attack that has led to his declining health.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he’s worked alongside Mr. Sullivan dating back to when Mr. Russell was the assessor.
“George is more than a colleague of mine, he’s a role model,” the supervisor said in an email. “His commitment to his country, his family and his community is something we should all strive to meet.”
Mr. Sullivan said he’s currently being treated for pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease with no known cures.
“It really affects everything you do,” he said of the disease. “I’m working through it. I’ve had difficulties in my life in the past, so I hope to get through this as well.”
He said even if he hadn’t been dealt a new health issue, he was thinking that it might be time to step aside from his role.
Mr. Sullivan said he’s enjoying time with his grandchildren, Kevin, 9, Mallaigh, 7, and Ryan, 5.
“They’re all three good students,” he said. “I love them dearly.”
His grandchildren visited Washington, D.C. in 2016 to see their grandfather’s quote that’s part of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. The memorial honors more than 4 million veterans from all wars who returned home permanently disabled.
Mr. Sullivan’s quote featured on a glass panel among the “Voices of the Veterans” reads: “Yes, I wished things would have worked out a little better for me, but I did come home alive and had a fairly successful life.”
Mr. Sullivan was awarded the Navy Cross, the country’s second-highest military decoration, for his service.
“His retirement is a big loss for this town,” Mr. Russell said.
Photo caption: George Sullivan pictured at his home in 2017 as he prepared to serve as grand marshal of the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister/file)