Longstanding battle for Shandaken Highway Superintendent continues

By Jay Braman Jr.
Keith Johnson hopes that the third time is the charm.
Counting this upcoming election, that is how many times he will have faced current Highway Superintendent Eric Hofmeister at the polls, trying to either keep or regain the job as Shandaken’s road boss.

“I would like the job. I can do a better job. I’m better qualified,” said Johnson, who held the position for one term in 2006-2007. Johnson was unseated by Hofmeister in the 2007 election. Johnson tried again in the 2009 election but Hofmeister held the position.

Last summer the Democrats again endorsed Hofmeister for highway superintendent at the annual caucus. Then Hofmeister got endorsed by the Republican Party placing him on both major party lines on the ballot.

Johnson, a logger/excavator who is married and lives in the Hamlet of Shandaken, sought both the Democratic and Republican endorsements as well, but failed to best Hofmeister.

Undaunted, Johnson took his case the town’s Conservative Party, which gave him the nod. Johnson is running on both the Conservative Party and Advocate Party lines on the ballot.

Last week Johnson said he was the best man for the job because, in his opinion, Hofmeister is not doing as much work on the roads as he could be doing, and Johnson claims that if more work had been done the flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene would have been less severe. Johnson also says that Hofmiester has been keeping the budget increases so low that highway department equipment is not being replaced when it should be.

Truck rotation
“The small trucks need to be rotated and they’re not,” Johnson said.

In a telephone interview, Hofmiester said that when he took office he believed the equipment lines of the budget were bloated and corrected that.

“I put the money into the roads instead,” he said.

And as for rotating trucks, Hofmiester said there is both money and plans for that, with some purchases scheduled for this fall. However, that money was instead put to use during the flood recovery of late. Hofmiester, who has kept the highway department budget flat the last couple years, expects to get the purchasing back on track once FEMA reimburses the town.

As for not doing enough work to prevent flood damage on the level that the town witnessed this year, Hofmiester reminds that Irene was “catastrophic,” and he believes the town is lucky that he has been highway superintendent the past four years.

“I’ve done more work in the streams that any other highway superintendent this town has ever had,” he said.