Two familiar faces are vying for the Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent seat. Incumbent Dan Losquadro (R), who has been superintendent since 2013, is seeking a fourth term come Election Day. Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy, a private attorney, is once again running for the top highway department position. He ran against Losquadro in 2017.
The town highway superintendent’s role 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. The candidates joined in a debate at the TBR News Media office
“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts.”
— Dan Losquadro
Losquadro has spent 16 years in elected office, previously serving as Suffolk County legislator and New York State assemblyman.
“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts,” he said. “Instead of debating, now I can allocate funding and I get to see those projects to their completion, that is very gratifying to me.”
Portesy said he shares some of the ideas Losquadro has. His ideas have come from talking to thousands of voters since he lost in 2017.
The challenger detailed what he called a “worst to first” initiative he’d like to implement if elected. The priority list would be publicly posted on the town’s website, so residents can see when their road is going to get reconstructed.
“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,” he said. “The voter frustrations are based off the in-house metrics. No one knows how they decide which roads are done and which ones are not done.”
Losquadro said there are many factors that go into selecting roads for work, and that it sometimes hinges on weather conditions.
“This winter was different because we had so many freeze-thaw cycles,” he said. “Every day it seemed like during the day it was 45 degrees and then at night it went down to 18 degrees.”
The incumbent said during the winter they used a combination of cold patch and hot mix to battle potholes.
“We used more cold patch but it never quite fully hardens, so that meant after the winter it breaks up and we had to go back all throughout the spring and summer to fix the potholes that were already fixed,” he said. “It is a battle that you have to keep fighting.”
For next year, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has allocated $15 million to the highway department. Both candidates agreed that the funds are needed to fix roads that are past their life expectancy.
Losquadro said that every penny should be going to roads and mentioned his own high priority list. When pressed on why he doesn’t give more details on when residents can expect work done on their roads, Losquadro said there are multiple factors that decide when a road can be done, and much is out of his hands.
“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,”
He stressed that he is working with a finite budget and assured residents that they have a plan in place.
“We are getting there — I will never say work will be definitely done by next year, it could be done in two or three years,” he said. “Winters change things.”
Portesy said that’s the crux of resident’s frustration and he wants to make the process more transparent to them.
“They know there’s only so much money in the pot, they just want to know when their road is going to be fixed,” he said.
Another area the candidates differ is on how the department uses contractors for most of its work.
The highway superintendent said he would love to have more workers, but the department tries to be mindful of its spending.
“The town used to have its own pavement crew, but it is just not feasible to hire multiple employees and buy our own materials,” he said.
The challenger said he believes within the confines of the budget the department could have room to hire between 12 to 20 additional employees over the course of three to five years.
“I think we can lessen the reliance on contractors — I think creating an apprenticeship program could be a good idea,” he said.