It’s a big election year for highway superintendents in Fulton County. In several smaller and rural towns, more candidates are seeking the post than one county official remembers in a long time.
But whether it’s dissatisfaction with incumbents or the appeal of a municipal job with a decent wage and benefits that is drawing challengers, no one can be sure.
“I’ve never seen this many people run for that position,” said Fulton County Republican Deputy Elections Commissioner Linda Madison, who has worked for the county Board of Elections since 1988.
“It’s just a really big thing this year.”
Though some candidates didn’t make it past the primaries, Madison said they are coming back on independent lines (several under quirky, eye-catching titles) to take a shot at the position.
Madison said a long-standing appeal of the job is that because it is an elected office, the Town Board can’t set scheduled hours for the position. So if the victor wanted, he or she could show up for the job just one day of the year and still earn a salary.
But with elected positions come responsibility to voters, she said, so it’s unlikely someone would do that. Nonetheless, some residents still drive by and notice their highway superintendents leisurely sitting on their porch in the middle of the day, she said.
“I think that’s why some of these highway superintendent guys are in trouble,” she said, “because they’re not doing their jobs. And, especially in these times when everybody’s hurting and people are losing jobs, no one wants to see that.”
The campaign is contentious in Broadalbin, where candidate Lance Winney said taxpayers are getting ripped off. Winney is running on the Conservative line against Republican incumbent Donald Loveless, Jr. Winney said a desire to oversee the way things are done in the department drew him to run this year.
“From the people that I’ve talked to, they are fed up with the lack of work force,” Winney said. “They don’t have to punch a time clock over there. There’s no accountability.”
Loveless could not be reached.
In Bleecker, a town of fewer than 600 people, three candidates are pursuing the highway superintendent seat. Incumbent Paul Brink is running on the Republican and Brook Trout lines, while Robert Young is running on the Woodchuck line and Edward Bleyl is running on the Chief line.
Ephratah has two contenders for the position: incumbent James Berry, running on the Republican and Lucky Charm lines, and Stephen Gray, running on the aptly titled Gray line.
Residents should know by now that the position in Oppenheim is hotly contested. Lawn and roadside signs have dotted the town for months, as three candidates go after the seat. Incumbent Richard Crum is running on the Republican and John Deere lines, Marc Cool II is running on the Highway Worker line and Brian Miller is running on the Working line.
Stratford’s highway superintendent race is deja vu all over again. Robert Stalnaker Sr. is seeking re-election on the Stratfordian line and Mark Snowman is running for the position on the Republican and Peoples line. Snowman also challenged Stalnaker in 2009 and 2007, both times unsuccessfully.
Even in Caroga, where only one candidate is listed on the ballot for highway superintendent, the position is being contested, said Madison. Stephen Putman won a spot on the ballot in the Republican primary two months ago, beating current Highway Superintendent Joseph Insogna. But Insogna recently began campaigning for write-in votes, Madison said.
Only in a few places is the position is uncontested.
In the town of Johnstown, Theodore “T.J.” Bradt is running unopposed. And in Mayfield, though candidates for other positions on the ballot expressed discontent with his performance, incumbent Melvin Dopp is running unopposed, as well.
“It’s actually popular all over this year,” Madison said. “If you look in some of the other nearby counties, candidates are cropping up. Even the ones who lost the primary are coming back on the independent line, so voters will see their names again.”
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