It didn’t seem like 28 years ago, Paul Rickenbach Jr. said, but that’s when he first picked up the gavel as East Hampton Village mayor.
On December 20, he walked out of the village board meeting as a civilian, having relinquished his elected title six months early.
During the meeting, the departing mayor was lauded by local dignitaries and politicians, including Assemblyman Fred Thiele, state Senator Ken LaValle, and former village administrator Larry Cantwell, who also served as East Hampton town supervisor after three decades in village hall.
During Rickenbach’s time at the helm, large change to the neighborhood were placed under the protection of historic districts to preserve the unique character of the colonial village, including the Hook Mill area, Huntting Lane, and Ocean Avenue historic districts. The Beecher House, the Isaac Scoy Osborne House, the Dominy clock shops, and various other buildings and parcels were acquired.
Congressman Lee Zeldin announced, through his district director, Mark Woolley, who attended the meeting, that the congressman plans to have a flag flown at the capitol in Rickenbach’s honor. Several speakers praised the now former mayor for the way he treated others.
“Mayor Rickenbach has an ability to get things done without leaving people out,” said Steven Schwartz, co-founder of the East Hampton Group for Good Government, an organization Rickenbach nurtured. “We had a model for our thoughts — it was the leadership of this village.”
Cantwell amused those who gathered with war stories from his days in village hall with the mayor. One that made national news was the purchase of the green by the village windmill from Generosa Ammon amid the Ted Ammon murder investigation. Rickenbach convinced Generosa to sell it to the village rather than privately. Her boyfriend Danny Pelosi was convicted of killing her estranged husband.
Others speakers at the emergency services building, where the event was held, included East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, East Hampton Planning Board Vice Chairperson Kathy Cunningham, Kevin McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, and Richard Lawler, the deputy mayor, who is taking over as interim mayor.
Lawler’s appointment led to criticism from former village police chief Jerry Larsen, who is expected to challenge the mayor’s seat this summer, that Rickenbach was attempting to name his own successor.
“You set the bar very high,” Lawler told Rickenbach. “You always kind of showed me the way. I’ve always considered you a good friend and a mentor.”
Rickenbach, who is 83, thanked his wife, Jean, and all speakers in attendance. He recognized his staff, calling village hall “a classy organization.” He said he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Rickenbach began his career as a village cop in 1958 and also served on the village board.
“I’ve been very fortunate serving in the various capacities under the umbrella of municipal government,” he said. “I can’t think of a better place to hang my hat than the Village of East Hampton.”