Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer did more than just show up for work Thursday. He made history.
Schaffer became the longest-serving supervisor in town history, with 13 years, 1 month and 20 days under his belt, a day more than the last record holder, Edward Daily, who died in office in 1912.
Schaffer, 52, who has served split terms — from November 1992 to December 2001 and in his current run that started in January 2012 — is not the longest-serving supervisor on Long Island. That distinction belongs to Patrick Vecchio in Smithtown, who is in his 37th year as supervisor.
According to the Association of Towns of the State of New York, the longest-serving town supervisor in the state was Francis Donnelly in the Town of Minerva, who served as supervisor for 46 years until his death in 1980.
In a packed town board room on Thursday, residents, town workers and former town officials gathered to mark the moment. After a slide show on the history of town supervisors, Schaffer was greeted with a standing ovation.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life, even under the worst of circumstances,” he told the crowd.
Schaffer is also the Suffolk County Democratic chair and an attorney.
Among those bad times, he noted, was when, in 1997, his administration was investigated by then-Suffolk District Attorney James M. Catterson Jr. A grand jury charged Schaffer’s aides, who became known as the “Babylon Five,” on charges of falsifying documents to hide a budget deficit.
Charges against three were dropped. In a jury verdict in October 1998, the remaining two were cleared of all felonies.
In March 1998, two town officials, Doug Jacob and Ronald Kluesener, and a carting company were accused of conspiring to give the firm favors because it had paid for a Schaffer fundraiser in 1995. All were acquitted at trial.
Jacob is now a consultant for the town with his company, Red Hill, providing nonunion employees to the town, and Kluesener is Schaffer’s chief of staff.
On hand for the celebration were two of the four former surviving town supervisors: William Lauder, who served from 1963 to 1965, and Schaffer’s predecessor, Arthur Pitts, who served from 1988 to 1992.
“I think it took a lot of courage,” Lauder said of Schaffer’s long run. “It’s a very demanding job.”
Lauder said he only served one term because he felt the job was taking time away from his family.
“My hat’s off to him,” said Pitts, who left after two terms when he was elected a county judge. “I wouldn’t be able to do this job for 13 years. It can be a very difficult environment to work in.”
Town Historian Mary Cascone said she made Schaffer aware of the approaching milestone when he came back to the position in 2012. “When I realized this summer that we were coming up on 13 years, I thought, ‘that’s impressive,’” she said.
Cascone said Schaffer and Daily share a popularity and familiarity with town residents. Schaffer said that one thing he didn’t want to have in common with Daily was dying in office.
“I did check my cholesterol and had my yearly check up to make sure everything was OK,” he joked.
Babylon Town Supervisor Facts
There have been 30 supervisors in the town’s 144-year history.
From 1872 to 1898, supervisors were elected to one-year terms. From 1899 to 2005, terms were two-years. Since 2006, supervisors are elected to four-year terms.
There have been seven supervisors who served non-consecutive terms.
The shortest term belongs to Henry A. Brown, who was appointed in June 1912 after Edward Daily died in office. Brown completed the 10 months left in Daily’s term but did not seek election.
The honor of shortest term for an elected supervisor belongs to Joseph A. Stabile, who served 1 year, 1 month and 26 days from Jan 1968 to Feb 1969 and then left office to accept a Suffolk County court appointment.
Only one supervisor has been arrested: Frederick Sheide, who served from 1913 to 1917, was arrested in 1931 during the country’s Prohibition for beer running.
Source: Babylon Town Historian Mary Cascone