Editor's note: The author is president of the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc.
The Town of Bethlehem is considering a change for the highway superintendent position to go from elected by the people to appointed by the Town Board. The New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH) opposes this change. Currently, the highway superintendent is accountable to the people of the town and should remain that way.
According to the State Comptroller, the single largest expense in New York state’s towns is maintaining their local roads. By having an elected highway superintendent, the voters decide directly the person who will administer the largest share of their tax dollars. Highway superintendents are responsible for maintaining the town’s roads in the most cost efficient manner possible while ensuring the safest possible roads for the travelling public.
Every two to four years, the voters have the opportunity to give the highway superintendent a job review. If no longer an elected position, the only way a town resident has the ability to make a change is by voting out the board members who appointed the highway superintendent. Since board members can have a term of four years and are up for re-election on a rotating basis this means that residents only have a chance to switch the appointed town highway superintendent every six to eight years, and that would be very difficult.
These hard working professionals are responsible for maintaining safe roads for over 70 percent of New York’s drivers. They are constantly reviewing new methods for road repair. As a full-time elected official with this sole purpose in mind they are constantly in touch with their constituents’ needs. If the position is no longer elected, town residents will lose the ability to make a direct change for themselves.