11/02/13 11:59am
11/02/2013 11:59 AM
Highway superintendent George 'Gio' Woodson

Highway superintendent George ‘Gio’ Woodson

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.

Profiles: Meet the candidates for highway superintendent

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.

07/30/13 12:08pm
07/30/2013 12:08 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Just two petitions have been challenged in Riverhead Town this election season.

Only Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, who is running a Democratic primary for Riverhead Town supervisor, and Mike Panchak, the Riverhead Republican Committee’s candidate for highway superintendent, have had specific objections filed against their nominating petitions for this fall’s town elections.

Since the deadline for filing objections has passed, that means there will be a Republican primary for Town Council in September, with Anthony Coates challenging committee nominees John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The challenge against Mr. Panchak came from Keisha Washington Dean, who is a member of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee.

Ms. Dean claimed that since Mr. Panchak is not a registered Republican, he requires a certificate of authorization from the Republican leadership, and failed to get that certificate, sometimes called a “Wilson Pakula,” by the July 15 deadline.

“It’s still in the hands of the Board of Elections,” Mr. Panchak said.

He said he plans to run whether he’s on the Republican line or not because he’s still going to be on the Conservative line and no challenges were filed on his position there.

Mr. Panchak, who is challenging incumbent Democrat George ‘Gio’ Woodson, is not registered with a political party, and is listed as a “blank” by the Board of Elections.

“We missed the filing period to give him a Wilson Pakula,” said Republican vice chairman Mason Haas of Mr. Panchak. “Normally we would have caught this mistake. However, the distractions of late has unfortunately caused us to have missed the filing deadline for the Wilson Pakula and Mr. Panchak may be a casualty of that.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, whose name appears on the ballot as Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, filed 429 signatures, and three different people filed objections to them, including Ms. Washington Dean. Maxine Kleedorfer of Baiting Hollow also challenged all of Ms. Cotten’s petitions on the grounds that she listed her address incorrectly.  Jeanne Luboja of South Jamesport is the third person to file petitions against Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse, who is challenging Democratic party nominee for Angela DeVito for supervisor, listed her address as 8 Legend Lane in Jamesport, although the town changed her address to 37 Legend Lane for the e-911 emergency phone system. In addition, since she gets mail delivered to a mailbox, her mailing address should be Legend Lane in Riverhead, since the Jamesport Post Office doesn’t deliver to mailboxes in front of homes.

The Board of Elections will rule on both cases in the coming weeks.

Mr. Coates said he filed general objections to the Republican petitions, through his girlfriend, Cleo Beletsis, but decided not to file specific objections because it would be too much of a distraction.

[email protected]

04/17/13 1:00pm
04/17/2013 1:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Salt barns used by the Riverhead highway department. The GOP is set to screen one candidate for highway superintendent.

Riverhead Republicans plan to screen one candidate for highway superintendent, in addition to the Town Board seats, according to Republican chairman John Galla.

Mike Panchak of Riverhead is so far the only candidate seeking to screen for the party’s highway superintendent nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Mr. Panchak owns Eagle Asphalt Maintenance in Riverhead, and he is also a first lieutenant in the Riverhead Fire Department.

Mr. Panchak could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Republicans plan to screen prospective candidates for town offices tonight at the Hyatt Hotel on East Main Street, but have yet to set a date to nominate their choices, Mr. Galla said.

If nominated, Mr. Panchak would challenge incumbent Democrat George “Gio” Woodson, who has held the position since 2008.

Mr. Woodson, a former highway department employee, was elected to a two-year term in 2007 and was reelected to a four-year term in 2009. Riverhead voters voted to increase the term of the highway superintendent from two years to four in a 2009 proposition.

The only other town position up for reelection this fall is for assessor, where incumbent Republican Laverne Tennenburg is seeking reelection and doesn’t appear to have any challengers for the Republican nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Ms. Tennenburg was first elected in 1989, and has been the chair of the town Board of Assessors since 1997.

The Republicans plan to screen incumbent Sean Walter, Councilman Jim Wooten and Assessor Mason Haas for supervisor, Mr. Galla said. In addition, they plan to screen incumbents John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio for council, along with challenger Anthony Coates.

Greg Fischer, a registered Democrat, has asked to screen with both parties for a Town Board seat, although he has not specified if he’s seeking the supervisor post or a council seat.

[email protected]