Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, explaining his decision to step down after his term ends in 2013, Thursday called for new leadership with a fresh perspective.
"We need someone to come in and add vigor to the office and to look at new ways of doing things," he said. "No one should be in office forever ..."
Vanderhoef, 64, one of the longest-serving county executives in New York, told some 100 supporters at a fundraiser Wednesday night that he will not seek re-election.
"Twenty years is a long time and I firmly believe that new eyes, a new perspective is needed."
Vanderhoef made the announcement at Civile's Venice on the Hudson in Haverstraw where he has staged annual political fundraisers for years. Vanderhoef told supporters he plans to serve out the remainder of his fifth term before retiring.
Vanderhoef, a graduate of Tappan Zee High School who became an environmental lawyer, said that he intends to return to the private sector, but his direction remains unclear.
"We've got a year plus still left so I have not made any decisions about where to go," he said. "Although there are law firms and other things that are types of things I've done before or could do in the future. Perhaps teach someplace. Maybe become a newscaster, political analyst, you just never know."
Vanderhoef said his wife was supportive when he spoke to her about retiring several weeks ago.
And while political allies and rivals alike know his days as the county's top politician are limited, Vanderhoef said he doesn't believe that will prevent him from being effective in his last year in office.
"I've been a lame duck since I got here -- a Republican with a Democratic legislature," he said. "I don't see a change in that. I don't see that as a problem."
Asked whether he can make tougher budget decisions now that he doesn't have to worry about re-election, Vanderhoef said he won't deviate from what he's done throughout his 19-year career.
At a time when almost every county government has budget woes, Rockland County stands out for the severity of its fiscal situation -- the county's bond status has been downgraded three times, county leaders have squabbled with their town and village counterparts over who should pay the tab on shared services, and this year the county took the unusual route of creating a new tax on energy to help overcome its deficits.
The situation will only get worse, and Vanderhoef said there's little fiscal flexibility because of state mandates, which cannot be changed at the local level.
"He's got his own life to think of, and he's probably announcing at a reasonably early time to give people an opportunity to think about who will succeed him," said Cornell (D-West Nyack).
County GOP chairman Vincent Reda said Republicans have heard from "several people who have expressed an interest" in running for county executive. He declined to name potential candidates, but some politicians -- including Rockland Legis. Ed Day, a retired NYPD lieutenant commander -- have said publicly they're interested in the job.
Names floated on the Democratic side include Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato and Legis. Alden Wolfe, vice chairman of the county Legislature.
Whoever ends up as his successor will need thick skin, a firm grasp of state funding mandates and the resolve to make bold decisions despite inevitable criticism, Vanderhoef said.
For a county executive, "decisions have to be made at the desk. That's much different form a lot of politics where you can argue in favor of a bill," he said. "Decisions have to be made. People will criticize you on both sides of an issue."
The Rockland GOP will stage its convention in the spring of 2013, where party leaders will choose a nominee. County executives in Rockland serve four-year terms and earn more than $147,000 annually.
With News 12