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Campaign for highway superintendent is low-key

On the face of it, the race for highway superintendent in Lancaster is so ordinary it's almost boring.

Both candidates seeking the Democratic line say they have more experience. Both vow to shun patronage and hire only the best-qualified candidates.

And both are careful not to make too much of the fact that the incumbent hasn't been to work since April.

That's when Richard L. Reese Jr. agreed not to report to work as a condition of his bail, which stems from charges that he assaulted FBI agents who came to his house to question him about money that town crews collected for scrap metal they picked up throughout town.

Reese turned over more than $2,000 to the agents; no charges were filed regarding the use of town funds. His assault case is pending in federal court. He has continued to receive a paycheck since April.

Neither Reese nor his challenger, Councilman Daniel J. Amatura, says Reese's legal situation should be the focus of the race.

Reese, 57, believes the charges will be dropped; he was distraught over his wife's recent death at the time, he said, and he did not actually assault any agents. He's asking residents to vote based on how well he's done his job so far.

"If the people have been satisfied with what's been done over past 12 years, I'd really appreciate the chance to continue on and serve for them again," said Reese, who has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.

He says he's a hands-on highway superintendent who makes sure the roads are plowed and repaired promptly.

"I'm not afraid to do the work," he said. "I'm a problem-solver."

Reese, the president of the Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Association, says he has gotten a warm reception from residents as he campaigns door to door.

Amatura acknowledges he gets plenty of questions from voters about Reese's legal situation but tells them that he doesn't know any more about it than he reads in the paper.

"I have to run on my qualifications, not on whether he has a problem," Amatura said.

The owner of Frank's Grille, Amatura has been a town councilman for six years. Prior to that, he spent 30 years in construction, most of it in heavy highway construction, he said.

He started as a laborer and worked his way up to become a foreman and eventually a project manager, working on projects that included Millersport Highway and the I-190.

"I believe I have lot more experience than Richard does, especially with road construction and infrastructure work," said Amatura, 61, who has an associate's degree.

As a councilman, he said, he helped changed the specifications for road construction in Lancaster to ensure there's more stone and more blacktop on the roads, so that they last longer.

Amatura is endorsed by the Lancaster Democratic Committee, as well as the town's Conservative and Independence parties.