Brookhaven councilwoman Kathy Walsh, who has served the town for seven years as the Republican representing the third council district, on Friday made the jump to the Independence Party – and has also been named the Democrats' choice to run against Republican candidate Dan Losquadro, who kicked off his campaign Thursday, to fill the town's vacant highway superintendent post.
In an interview Sunday, Walsh – who served as deputy supervisor under former supervisor Mark Lesko, a Democrat, and who served as acting supervisor before Ed Romaine was elected in November – said the switch felt like a natural one and that she has confidence in her choice.
"I made some of my party leadership not very happy by working in a bipartisan way," she said. "It's been a little bit difficult for the last three years since I started working with Lesko. I came to be more of an independent person."
"I haven’t changed who I am and my beliefs have not changed," she added.
The town's highway superintendent position opened up when Republican John Rouse, who held the position since 2003, was elected as a County Court judge in November.
Walsh said she sought the nomination first from the Republican party, whose leadership eventually went with Losquadro. She said her interest in the highway post stems from her father's experiences working for the highway department.
"My family history goes back to that," she said, "so I feel a very personal affection for the department and the work that the men and women do there."
Walsh said that if elected, she will work to bring new technologies to the town highway department, make sure town facilities are in good shape, and find ways do work in-house to eliminate the need for outside consultants.
Meanwhile, Losquadro said he is focusing on getting out the message about his record in office. A former county legislator who now represents New York's Second Assembly District, Losquadro said he helped repeal most of the MTA payroll tax and supported the property tax cap enacted in 2012. In an interview with Patch in December Losquadro said the role of highway superintendent is more important than ever in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
In an interview Sunday, he said he would work to improve communication within the highway department, focus on the safety and maintenance of the town's 2,100 miles of roads, and implement a disaster preparedness plan.
"I have very clearly showed that I have the ability to make really difficult decisions," he said. "My experience working across party lines in the legislature [and] working with the assembly really prepared me to work well with the town board."
Romaine has set the date for the highway superintendent election as March 5, in accordance with a town law requiring a minimum of 60 days to a maximum of 90 days for a special election following a vacancy in office.
"It provides voters with substantial time to vet the candidates and study the issues," Romaine said in a statement. "The Superintendent of Highways controls a large budget and it’s vital that the people get all the information they need to make a sound decision come election day.”