The Republican primary race for Eden highway superintendent is heated, with both candidates hammering home their commitment to maintaining the roads and promising cost-effective management of a department with a $913,000 budget.
Incumbent Ronald Maggs, a registered Republican who has the Democratic endorsement, is squaring off against Allen Schuster, a town Republican committee member who also carries the Independence and Conservative parties' endorsements.
Maggs says he has increased the department's efficiency and describes himself as a "hands-on" superintendent who has managed budgets that have resulted in cutting the highway tax rate to $2.31 per $1,000 of assessed valuation this year, from $2.38 in 1995, when he was first elected.
"I look at the roads four years ago, and look at them now, and people have got to be able to see improvement," Maggs said. "There's increased efficiency, given the amount of work getting done on the roads for the amount of money we have."
Schuster and Maggs have been waging a high-profile primary battle. Maggs, running unopposed, won re-election in 1997.
Schuster, in his first campaign for public office, said he would restore leadership to the 10-member department and vowed to respond to residents' calls within 36 hours. He also has pledged to maintain highways and to improve relations with highway employees to help resolve internal conflicts quickly.
Schuster, who has worked for the Amos Zittel & Sons farm for 27 years, said he seeking a career switch and denies that he is running for highway chief because Maggs had passed him over earlier this year when he sought a town highway job.
"I was thinking of running before that happened. I'm not vindictive," he said.
Schuster, critical of Maggs, vows to be more responsive to residents' concerns and snow-removal problems.
He points to his experience in running heavy equipment on the farms and says he is ready to take on the job.