New Paltz voters will have to decide if current town highway superintendent Chris Marx should keep his job — or if his challenger Fred Vitarius should be the new department head.
Marx, who is endorsed by the Democrats, won back in 2011 and has had almost two years of experience as the leader of the town highway department. Before that, he worked for both the village and town for roughly a decade.
During his two years in charge, he also managed a changed department. In 2012, Marx became head of a combined highway/buildings and grounds department. He’s also the town’s appointed water commissioner.
In its first 12 months, that departmental merger saved the town between $250,000 and $350,000. That’s because buildings and highway are sharing workers, equipment and materials.
Vitarius, endorsed by the Republicans, notes he’s not keen to change the dual department setup if he wins. The challenger also has a lot of road construction experience, having worked with the Ulster County Department of Highways & Bridges and the Albany Bridge Corporation.
He’d like to parlay that experience into a new era for the highway department.
Here’s what both candidates had to say:
Why are you running for highway superintendent again?
Being the highway superintendent these last two years has made me feel that I am giving something back to the community that I grew up in and am raising a family in.
I like the networking with the community, departments and committees to help keep New Paltz a community I am proud to call home. There is also a certain satisfaction in seeing projects through to completion.
These last two years went by fast and I want the opportunity to see several projects through that are in the planning stages.
What makes you ready for the job? What kind of experiences, previous jobs will make you fit to lead the Highway Department?
I am ready to take on another two years as highway superintendent. My past work experience includes a total of 10 years working for the town and village of New Paltz both in the highway garage and DPW.
I am familiar with the town’s infrastructure and with issues which affect the community today. During the past two years as highway superintendent, I have had multiple opportunities to call on my past experiences as a member of the highway crew, in the excavation/sewer business and those I have gained by running my own business.
In addition, I have furthered my education on current highway and road issues by attending classes at the Cornell Extension. I have the most up-to-date information and plan to continue my education and that of the highway crew. I believe that my past experiences along with continuing my education in the highway field makes me a reliable and fit candidate for highway superintendent.
Back in 2012, longtime buildings and grounds department head Bob Leghorn retired. Town Board members ended up merging buildings and highway to share staff and save costs. You are paid extra for this work. You also do a lot of other odd jobs for the town, like running audio during the meetings. However, that arrangement isn’t guaranteed. That extra work is voluntary and not a part of the official highway superintendent’s job description. Will you continue that setup and perform that extra work if re-elected? Would you ever switch your focus back to just the highway department?
Yes. I feel that it is important for elected officials to stay in touch with what is going on in the community. The Town Board meetings allow me to do this. Making myself available to perform this extra work allows me to keep in touch with those that attend board meetings. And it helps me to stay on top of issues affecting town roads and fixing them before they become bigger, more costly issues.
This is something that I have helped with since becoming highway superintendent and will continue if re-elected. I am in the position where I can help and I am happy to do so.
As far as switching back my focus to just the highway department, I don’t think so. This new arrangement was a benefit to everyone. Sharing of equipment and staff closed a big gap that was costing the town a lot of money. By merging departments we have saved money and pooled town resources so we can operate at full potential.
Merging departments does go outside the scope of town highway superintendent, which is why I was granted the extra pay. As long as I am in the position of serving the New Paltz community, I plan to do my best to keep my eye on the bottom line and to do what is best for the town even if it means taking on the extra responsibility.