Like reports of Mark Twain's death, rumors about the impending demise of Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter have long been greatly exaggerated.
Former County Executive Steve Levy tried twice to eliminate her job. She survived; Levy didn't.
Steve Bellone beat Carpenter for county executive, but his attempt to abolish the treasurer's job through referendum was thrown out in court. This year, Bellone finally got voter approval to merge the treasurer and comptroller's offices. But the merger will take effect only when Carpenter finishes her third, and final, term at the end of 2017.
Now, Carpenter, a Republican who could run out her career in her $189,248-a-year post in peace, is in the GOP sweepstakes for Islip Town supervisor. Republican state Sen.-elect Tom Croci is vacating the post Jan. 1.
Carpenter's interest does not seem to make economic sense. Islip's top town job pays only $103,000 a year. So if the GOP-controlled town board appoints her as supervisor, and she wins election to a four-year term next fall, she would be leaving a total of $240,000 in county salary on the table.
However, if the board names Carpenter, 71, she could retire when she leaves the treasurer's job. Because she is over 65 she can collect both a state pension of more than $86,000, and the town salary, making the switch almost a wash. It also would extend her political career beyond 2017.
Carpenter has been a proven vote-getter in her nearly 21 years in office, as treasurer and a Suffolk County lawmaker. Unlike town board members, she is an outsider who cannot be blamed for the ongoing park dumping scandal.
Some also say that because of her age, Carpenter may not want to serve for a lengthy period of time. That could avoid prolonged squabbling among younger board members with political aspirations of their own.
"She provides an attractive alternative to avoid the infighting," said Paul Sabatino, a former chief deputy county executive.
Town Conservatives also appear to be leaning toward Carpenter because she is an experienced political hand. "She would bring a little maturity into the room," said one high-level party source who did not want to be identified.
On the downside, Carpenter could face campaign attacks that she is double-dipping -- though other supervisors, including Republican Edward P. Romaine of Brookhaven and Democrat Frank Petrone of Huntington, collect pensions and salaries and have faced no major criticism.
John Jay LaValle, Suffolk Republican chairman, said Carpenter's early exit from the treasurer's post would hurt Republicans because Bellone, a Democrat, would appoint a replacement, with consent of the Democrat-controlled county legislature. The appointee would run in November for a two-year term until the office goes out of existence at the end of 2017.
"Managing the merger is critical and we need Angie in there," said LaValle, who fears a Democratic treasurer could undercut new GOP Comptroller John Kennedy. Republicans also could lose several patronage posts if a Democrat becomes treasurer.
Islip Republican chairman Frank Tantone plans to conduct a poll on potential candidates including Carpenter, town board members Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and John Cochrane Jr., and Suffolk Legis. Thomas Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). Tantone said he expects the GOP to pick a supervisor candidate early so campaigning can begin.
Tantone said Carpenter, who declined to comment, has not decided whether to run. "She is leaning toward doing it, but has some reservations and just wants to make sure," he said.
"I also think she'd like to be Islip's first female supervisor, as corny as that might sound," said Tantone. "Also, coming back . . . to the town would be a good way to end a long career."