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Supervisor Edward Romaine finds his footing

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine gives the annual

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine gives the annual State of the Town address at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville on Monday, March 9, 2015. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Snow melts.

But some memories don't.

And maybe, for Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, that's not such a bad thing.

Two years ago, while he was away on a long-planned vacation, there was a big snowstorm. And Brookhaven residents -- no, make that a few streets worth of Brookhaven residents -- complained for days afterward about neighborhoods still unplowed.

"I caught hell when I got back," Romaine said Wednesday. "I disappointed some residents back then and I'm sorry for that."

But Romaine, a Republican, said the brouhaha taught him a lesson. It's one that Mastic Beach trustee Gary Stiriz -- who oversees the village public works operation and was slammed by fellow village officials this week for being in Florida during snowstorms -- might have found handy.

"I know Gary, I like Gary and I know what it's like to be criticized for being away during a storm," Romaine said. "But if Gary didn't want to be there to do the job, he should have resigned before going to Florida in January."

Stiriz, who is not running for re-election, has yet to comment on his absence. And a village official has declined to comment about whether Stiriz would be docked any of his $6,000-a-year stipend for missing four snowstorms since mid-January.

Unlike Stiriz, however, Romaine had no direct authority over snow removal. In Brookhaven, that job is left to the highway superintendent, an independently elected official.

But as the town's top elected official -- who has a single vote on Brookhaven's seven-member council -- he was on the receiving end of residents' anger.

"I haven't taken a vacation since," said Romaine.

Now, Brookhaven has a new highway superintendent. And the town -- geographically, the largest on Long Island -- has bought some new equipment.

Under Romaine's stewardship, the town also has a budget surplus -- and there are plans to supplement a variety of rainy day funds. In November, Moody's Investors Service included Brookhaven on a list of 34 municipalities that flourished despite the impact of the 2008 recession.

"We worked on debt, we didn't spend money we didn't have and we're seeing the result," Romaine said.

He was careful to acknowledge efforts by the town board, which appears to be behaving less rancorously than two years ago.

Last year, Romaine also gained attention for removing his name from town signs -- an usual move for Long Island politicians who tend to plaster monikers on almost everything.

And Brookhaven now has an inspector specifically tasked -- as part of a beautification effort -- with keeping political signs from illegally sprouting up along roadways. In 2014, some 15,000 of them were removed.

During this week's State of the Town address, Romaine -- in a rare move for a town supervisor -- spent much of his time pitching an ambitious plan to cut town greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2020.

Suffolk Republican leaders have asked him to run for county executive against Steve Bellone, who is up for re-election this fall.

"I've told them no," said Romaine, a former Suffolk County legislator and county clerk.

"I came from a higher level of government to run a lower level, one closer to residents," he said. "I like it here."

Not bad for a man who, politically, weathered a storm.

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