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Longtime former Monroe County District Attorney Howard Relin has died

Howard Relin
provided photo
Former Monroe County District Attorney Howard Relin, who died this week at the age of 81.

Howard Relin, who was Monroe County’s longest serving District Attorney has died.

The 81-year-old died on Wednesday. The Democrat and Chronicle reports he had suffered from heart disease.

Relin spent about 20 years in office, before retiring in 2003.

He was a Republican at one point, but after that, was a long-time Democrat, and people who worked with him and for him, said that he didn’t really view his position as being tightly tied to party affiliation.

In fact, Mike Green, who succeeded Relin as DA, and who previously was a Republican, noted that when Relin promoted him to be First Assistant District Attorney, there was a bit of grumbling by Democrats, since it likely gave Green a leg-up in terms of running for the top job.

“And a lot of people did give him flack for that,” said Green. “And Howard’s response was that, ‘I’ve got an obligation to the community and the office, and I’m doing what I think is best for the office and the community.’ To me, that said a lot about Howard in terms of his integrity, and his commitment to justice, his commitment to the office.”

And having that reputation was likely responsible for Relin’s longevity in the job, according to New York State Appellate Judge Stephen Lindley who used to be a prosecutor and also chaired Relin’s 1995 re-election campaign.

Lindley notes that Relin typically won his races by very wide margins.

“He was a Democrat, in what was then an overwhelming Republican county, and he would typically win 60 to 70% of the vote. One year, he won even more. That is astonishing. How does that happen? Well, I know how it happened, because I saw it the way every day he would treat people with respect and made time for everybody,” said Lindley.

That amiable personality was reflected in the way Relin treated his family, said his stepson, Mike Toole.

“For a guy who made his life in justice, he was very non-judgmental on his family members,” noted Toole. “We, all my sisters and I, we all had our challenges growing up and everything. He was just loving and supportive, all the time, and overly generous to a fault. But that wasn’t just us. He did that for so many other people.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.