Choosing A Highway Superintendent
While 26-year incumbent William Naughton is saying his quarter-century of experience at the helm of the Huntington Highway Department makes him the best choice to manage the town’s roads, challenger Peter Gunther is just as emphatic that it’s time for a change.
Gunther and Naughton have squared off twice in recent weeks at Meet the Candidates nights, once before the Greater Huntington Civic Group Oct. 9 and a second time at the Northport Yacht Club before the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs on Oct. 3.
Naughton, running on the Democratic line, said his 26 years of municipal experience, as well as another 18 years in private business before that, has given him a plethora of real-world knowledge that makes him an effective manager.
“I have done everything I could to make the highway department one of the best in Suffolk County, and I believe it is,” he said Oct. 3.
But Gunther, running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, argued Naughton has been a disappointment, especially in recent years.
“I think that Mr. Naughton has failed you. I think he hasn’t plowed the roads properly, which becomes a safety condition for all of you,” Gunther said. “I know Sandy was a big storm, but priorities weren’t set. There was no organization, and I feel that people that were contracted to clean up, I don’t feel that there was enough oversight over those people and direction to clean up in a timely manner.”
Both men touted their fiscal bona fides to voters.
“I had been in my own business for 18 years, which I think was the best training I ever got for this job,” Naughton said Oct. 3. “The money, and how you spend the money and the value that you get for the people’s tax dollar, is very important.”
Gunther said his experience as a Centerport Fire District commissioner proves he’s the most fiscally conservative candidate and a man who has attention for detail.
“In the last 10 of the 12 years, we’ve delivered a 0-percent increase to the taxpayers of Centerport,” he said, adding that the district has built cash reserves so they can buy equipment without floating bonds.
Faced with a question Oct. 3 about storm water runoff, Naughton said he is limited by his budget, which is controlled by the Huntington Town Board. He said, however, that nearly 500 storm drains and recharge basin, powered in part by a $2 million investment, has helped improve conditions.
Gunther stressed the importance of better collaboration with Town Hall.
“I’m very concerned about storm-water runoff. I’d like to work with the Town Board members to be able to do whatever is necessary to be an advocate for you,” he added.