Editors’ Note: This article has been updated to reflect a Correction.
Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips II, the second longest-serving D.A. in the state, said yesterday that he will not seek an eighth term in the position he has held since 1986. Phillips, 63, said that while he will retire from public service at the end of the year he will still practice law in some capacity. “It really boils down to doing a job for 28 years. Committing myself to the voters for another four years was something I couldn’t promise the voters,” Phillips said in an interview. “If it was a decision made with my heart rather than my head, I’d run. But I have accomplished all of my goals and then some.”
The Republican prosecutor, who has worked in the district attorney’s office for 35 of the 39 years he has practiced law, said he inherited a small office with 15 attorneys, none of them with more than four years of experience. The office now has 42 prosecutors, including at least a dozen who have been on the job 15 or more years, he said. “My legacy to the people is having created a professional prosecutor’s office,” Phillips said. “I could have waited to make this announcement, but once I decided I wasn’t going to run I wanted to give all the parties…an opportunity to vet candidates. It is my hope that there will be a lot of quality candidates. The most important quality of any prosecutor is integrity. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest attorney, but if you are not honest and forthright, problems can occur.”
Phillips, whose office prosecutes about 20,000 crimes annually in a county of about 375,000, is a past-president of the New York State District Attorneys Association. Only Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady, who took office in 1984, has served longer than Phillips. Also among the longest tenured district attorneys are Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen, who took office in 1987 and Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, 1989.