By Emily Toy
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Incumbent Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor went head to head in a debate against his challenger, Republican David Betts, last Friday afternoon at the Indy office.
Gregor, a member of the Independence Party who's held the position since 2010, prides himself on hiring a staff that reflects the demographic of the area and believes he can continue to transform the department.
"I'm representing the people's tax money," Gregor said. "I don't care about the party."
During the debate however, Betts, a life-long resident of Southampton Town and current Chief Town Investigator, criticized the department's finances over the years, charging the incumbent's spending to be irresponsible, particularly with projects that required bonded money.
"It's a question of transparency," Betts said. "There's $8.5 million that hasn't been utilized. If you bond for a project, you should be able to complete the project."
Betts also questioned whether bond money left over from projects was being used appropriately, reminding that bond monies need to be used for the respective projects they were originally bonded for.
Gregor said the money would and has been used for similar projects.
According to Gregor, he is trying to be more innovative for his department, which just recently received a 70 percent budget cut.
The incumbent superintendent said the town won't give him any money, adding he has made purchases through the bidding process.
"For the most part, I have my hands tied behind my back," Gregor said. "The department is struggling. We try to do with the best we have. I have a vision. I'm trying to turn around this department, but I've inherited 40 years of neglect."
Closing out the debate, Gregor described how he sometimes joins his workers riding in a snowplow, or driving a truck filled with debris to get dumped, reminding the nature of the job is very hands on.
"People want to see you," Gregor said. "I don't think in a government mind, I think in a business mind. I'm here to do a job. This is my home. I don't like seeing people get hurt, so I want this place to be fairer and better."
Betts said consensus building is a huge priority for him during his campaign for superintendent. He charged the role of highway superintendent is an administrative job, stating he has a good grasp on how to run the department, adding, "and I'm a pretty good administrator."
It's important to find someone who gets along with everyone when filling the position, Betts pointed out.
"It's another considerable issue, to have a consensus building atmosphere," Betts said. "We need to try to work together a bit more. A major issue is when you need a board resolution [to get anything done]. We have to get together and make a decision." Although he claimed he gets along with her, Gregor and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst often lock horns.