11/02/13 12:00pm
11/02/2013 12:00 PM

Highway Superintendent candidates George Woodson (left) and Michael Panchak.

Salary: $84,178
Four-year term, full time

George Woodson
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Highway superintendent
Party lines: Democrat, Working Families, Independence

About him: Mr. Woodson, 52, was born and raised in Riverhead. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from high school in 1979. He was later hired as a laborer with the Riverhead highway department, where he rose to crew leader. He worked with the department continuously until first being elected highway superintendent in 2008. He’s also been a Riverhead Fire Department volunteer for more than 25 years and is a former chief.

His pitch: Mr. Woodson keeps a running tally of achievements from his six years in office. Among those, he lists the purchase of $3 million worth of vehicles acquired at auction for just $90,000, as well as two military snowplows that came free. He pushed for and oversaw the installation of GPS systems in town highway trucks, which helps during emergencies. He lists that he challenged and defeated the town’s practice of administrative chargebacks to the highway and other districts, resulting in almost $800,000 going back to the highway department from the general fund.

In his words: “I will continue to work hard and keep upgrading the department to the best of my ability for the residents of Riverhead and give 100 percent.”

Michael Panchak
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Owner of Eagle Asphalt Maintenance
Party: Conservative

About him: Mr. Panchak, 39, a lifelong Riverhead resident, owns Eagle Asphalt Maintenance in Riverhead and is a 17-year member of the Riverhead Fire Department. He has 23 years of experience in asphalt, concrete, drainage and excavation. He’s also served for 18 years as an independent snowplow contractor with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

His pitch: Mr. Panchak says he understands municipal contracts, cost effectiveness and budgeting, and believes he has the knowledge at the state and county level to fully understand how to best deal with issues in a cost effective manner. He also favors contracting with private snowplow companies rather than keeping and maintaining trucks that are used only a few times each year. He was nominated by the Republican Committee but knocked from the GOP line after the party didn’t file proper paperwork in time.

His words: “I have the necessary knowledge with public works projects and experience with municipalities and the state. I will bring a quality control plan to the Riverhead highway department.”

Click here to read our endorsement for highway superintendent

08/02/13 3:34pm
08/02/2013 3:34 PM
Michael Panchak

FILE PHOTO | Michael Panchak will be running for highway superintendent on the Conservative line.

A state Supreme Court judge has thrown Michael Panchak off the Republican line in this fall’s race for Riverhead Town highway superintendent.

Judge Carol MacKenzie’s decision came in reaction to a lawsuit filed by Democratic incumbent Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson, who is running for re-election against Mr. Panchak.

The lawsuit, which is similar to a complaint filed with Mr. Panchak’s nominating petitions by Riverhead Democratic committee person Keisha Washington Dean, claimed that Mr. Panchak cannot be on the Republican line because he is not a registered Republican, and he did not get a Certificate of Authorization from Suffolk County Republican leaders allowing him to run on their line.

But Mr. Panchak, who is not registered with a political party and is what the Board of Elections calls a “blank,” will be on the November ballot on the Conservative party line, as no challenges were raised to his being on that line.

Marge Acevedo, the Riverhead Town Demcoratic Committee chairwoman, said committee members were alerted to the mistake when they found that Mr. Panchak had signed a nominating petition for Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is running a Democratic primary challenge to party designee Angela DeVito.

Ms. Acevedo said they then noticed the lack of the authorization, which is often called a Wilson Pikula.

Mr. Panchak told the News-Review Friday that at this point, he can’t appeal the judge’s decision because the attorney he was under the impression the Republicans had hired for him never showed up in court.

“At this point, I’ll just be on the Conservative line,” he said. “I will still run an active campaign, we’ll just be a little bit behind the 8-ball because I’ll only be on the ballot with one party.”

Riverhead Republican committee vice chairman Mason Haas said Friday that he merely recommended the attorney, Steven Losquadro, to Mr. Panchak, and that it was up to Mr. Panchak to hire him.

“Mr. Panchak was told he had to hire an attorney,” Mr. Haas said. “He was referred to an attorney. Whether or not he hired him, I don’t know.”

Mr. Haas said the Republicans will continue to support Mr. Panchak in the campaign, but he just won’t have the Republican line.

Mr. Losquadro could not immediately be reached for comment.

As previously reported, Mr. Panchak is one of two candidates in this fall’s town elections to have nominating petitions challenged.

The other is Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who faces three challenges to her petitions, with much of the opposition centering on potential discrepancies in her mailing address.

The Board of Elections has yet to rule on that case.

Political sources say a primary is expected in the supervisor race.

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