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LEWISTON – The always-opinionated, often-brash and currently embattled Steven L. Reiter has long been a key player in Lewiston politics, serving as supervisor for the past four years and prior to that, highway superintendent for more than a decade.

But after losing his bid for re-election in the September primaries, Reiter has known the end was coming up and said this week that he has decided to take an early leave of absence and look at new options.

“I’m not just one to sit and collect a paycheck,” said Reiter, who at his request was granted a leave of absence without pay by the Town Board. “If I was a poor loser, I would have left a long time ago. It’s just a good time for me to get out.”

And love him or hate him – most folks here have an opinion – Reiter appears unconcerned and said Thursday that he is exploring some job opportunities and will be traveling through the end of December.

He said despite some negative press, he has been treated well in Lewiston.

“Yes, there was some negative people that went after me for some of my stands and feelings about things,” he said. “They are entitled to their opinions. I think I have always had the best interest for Lewiston, tried to do my best and make it a better place – and I feel pretty confident in that and I think the majority of people have responded to that and I thank them dearly.”

Reiter has been under a microscope since being questioned by the FBI in June. Sources say the case seems to revolve around using town gas pumps for his own personal use, though at this time no charges have been filed.

But in August,the Niagara County Republican Party declined to endorse Reiter due to what it called “a legal cloud hanging over his head.”

Instead, the party endorsed Councilman Ernest C. Palmer, who won the primary, but was defeated in November by Democrat Dennis J. Brochey.

Reiter also underwent quadruple bypass surgery on July 5, but said he is doing well after receiving excellent care at Buffalo General Medical Center. While he said he got a clean bill of health on Wednesday, he attributes some of his heart trouble to the demands of the job and said he won’t miss holding the top spot.

Asked if it would be hard to step away Reiter said, “No, no not at all. Not one bit. I am actually relieved. I was not planning on staying much longer. Probably, this term would have been it for me.

“Our family has taken some new direction with some of the projects our family has been doing and I plan on taking an active role,” Reiter said referring to a family-owned bar/restaurant on Ridge Road, just across the street from the town hall that will be converted to an apartment complex. “We own property in Florida and property in other places and I am kind of excited about it. Just enjoying life and enjoying my grandchildren.

He added, “I am not blaming the town, but I think part of my health issues were involving myself too much – taking it to heart, trying too hard to be a problem solver.”

Reiter said Deputy Supervisor Gary Catlin, who served with him for the entire four years, will finish up his term.

Catlin said his mission in the next month and a half will be passing the budget, which comes before the board for a vote next week. He also said he will work with incoming supervisor Brochey.

“Steve Reiter was very dedicated. He really knew the ins and outs,” Catlin said. “It’s a loss for the town. He was very knowledgeable.”

Palmer said, “I hope as we look back we remember Steve’s legacy with the town as a dedicated, enthusiastic and energetic person. He spent many years working for the town. He gave a good part of his life up for the Town of Lewiston and it’s obvious he was a part of many positive changes that took place in the town. Obviously, no one wants to leave the way he did, but he has a lot to be proud of.”

email: nfischer@buffnews.com