While residents in parts of neighboring Brookhaven Town remained buried in snow for days after February’s monster blizzard, most all of Riverhead was navigable very soon after the storm (save for some stretches of state roads in Wading River not within the town’s jurisdiction). And this came just a few short months after the highway department and its crews worked to remove fallen trees and pump flooded roadways during and after Hurricane Sandy.
George (Gio) Woodson’s six years in office have seen several extreme weather events and he and his department have performed admirably during and after each one — with Mr. Woodson often rolling up his sleeves and helping out by hopping aboard a plow or other department vehicle when needed.
What more can one ask from a highway department head? Well, there are matters of budgeting, equipment maintenance and keeping workers happy and safe. Mr. Woodson has excelled in these areas, too, planning well for salt, sand and overtime and doing more with fewer workers than in years past — and with little employee turnover.
Riverhead Town residents are lucky to have Mr. Woodson in office. But in this race, there’s an embarrassment of riches.
Some less fortunate western Suffolk towns have political hacks in office who are more interested in patronage jobs that road maintenance. But Riverhead residents have two top-notch candidates to choose from. Unfortunately, the Riverhead Republican Committee let candidate Michael Panchak down by not filing the proper paperwork in time to get him on the Republican line. A qualified candidate with years of experience running his own asphalt company and dealing with town and county governments as a private contractor, Mr. Panchak would bring knowledge and experience from the private side of road work to the department. Yet he’ll appear only on the Conservative line — and it’s highly doubtful he’ll upset Mr. Woodson, who’s not only popular, but has Democratic, Independence and Working Families support. While Mr. Woodson has earned another four years in office, it’s good that there are qualified people out there eyeing his job. That will keep Mr. Woodson from ever feeling entitled or getting complacent.