The Brookhaven Town highway superintendent is responsible for overseeing more than 3,300 lane miles of town roads, making it one of the largest highway departments in New York State.
Dan Losquadro (R), the incumbent superintendent since 2013, will seek a third term on Election Day Nov. 7. To remain in the position he’ll have to defeat Democrat Anthony Portesy, a 31-year-old first-time political candidate and private attorney by trade. The candidates weighed in on the job and issues pertaining to it during a debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office last month.
“I got involved in this race primarily because I would like to update the way the highway department handles the inventory of how the roads are reconstructed,” Portesy said. The candidate detailed what he called a “worst to first” initiative he’d like to implement to create a true priority list of town road resurfacing projects, and said he would plan on making the list publicly available on the town’s website through an interactive map, so residents could check on when repairs to their road might be coming. He said the town’s “hunt and peck” method of selecting roads for repaving doesn’t work. Losquadro said there are many factors that go into selecting roads for repaving, and that can be disturbed by a particularly harsh winter or other unforeseen factors.
Losquadro was a Suffolk County legislator for seven years prior to becoming highway superintendent. He said he identifies more with his current position than his stint on the legislature because he has a background in construction and enjoys getting his hands dirty.
“I feel that everything I did before this led me to this position,” he said. “I love the fact that I can actually get things done in this job and not just appropriate funds for something.”
Losquadro said upon taking office initially he knew he needed a long range plan and couldn’t come in and immediately improve the department’s functions. He said like many businesses, he established three-, five- and 10-year plans for accomplishing his goals, most of which have to do with modernizing the systems used by the department. He said he is ahead of schedule compared to the schedule he laid out nearly five years ago.
“The single biggest change has been taking the department from analogue to digital,” he said. “We have a department that was literally paper based and caused tremendous problems.”
He also lauded the department’s implementation of a fully electronic work order system as one of his proudest accomplishments so far in office. He also said he is now able to get in touch with all of the town’s snow removal vendors with “the touch of a button,” a process that he said used to take hours in the past.
The challenger said he has knocked on thousands of doors in the hopes of lending a voice to community members seeking change from the highway department.
“Whoever wins has 491,000 bosses,” Portesy said. “It’s very important that we’re listening to the concerns of everybody. It’s impossible to get back to everybody every single day, but I think there has to be some better communication, and that’s not me talking, that’s the people I’ve spoken to.”
He also pointed to more public availability for town contracts as a way to increase the department’s transparency and ultimately improve the relationship between the department and the community. Losquadro said town contracts are already available to the public, though a formal Freedom of Information Act request must be submitted.
Both indicated this is a relatively important time for the department, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set aside $100 million per year over the next four years in additional funding for local repaving projects in the state, and it will be incumbent upon the highway superintendent to do what they can to ascertain more of those funds than are currently slated for Long Island.