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North Hempstead hires public works veteran as highway chief after a long vacancy

Richard Baker has been named the new highway

Richard Baker has been named the new highway superintendent for the Town of North Hempstead. Credit: Town of North Hempstead

North Hempstead Town has hired a new highway department superintendent, a position that took almost three years to fill after the former roads chief resigned in 2016 in the wake of an internal overtime investigation.

Richard Baker of Bayport  joined North Hempstead on March 5 and will be paid $140,000 a year, town documents show. Baker had been a special projects supervisor at Suffolk County Public Works Department.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement that Baker was chosen “after a very thorough search” and that he “possesses the experience, professionalism and leadership skills necessary to oversee our highway department.”

Baker, 63, worked as a fleet consolidation administrative manager for New York City’s Sanitation Department from 2012 to 2017.  He was a public works commissioner and highway superintendent for Islip Town from 2007 to 2012. Baker has also been on the executive board of New York State and Suffolk County’s highway superintendent associations. 

Baker said Friday that his new job is "the icing on the cake of my public works career" because it allows him to return to his roots.

"I'm a Nassau County guy and I wanted to be back home," said Baker, a Merrick native whose first public sector job was with Hempstead Town. 

He said his first goal as superintendent is to  address potholes on town roads. 

Baker takes over for Thomas Tiernan, who resigned in November 2016 while the town was investigating him for amassing more than $130,000 in overtime from 2011 to 2016. Tiernan had worked for the town since 1980 and became highway superintendent in 2000.

In the aftermath of Tiernan's departure, the town revamped its nepotism policy and strengthened its financial disclosure guidelines. 

Joe Geraci, deputy commissioner of the Public Works Department, and Kevin Cronin, former buildings department commissioner, have taken turns serving as interim superintendent since Tiernan’s departure. Cronin will remain with the department and help Baker transition into the post, town officials said. 

The town began accepting applications for highway superintendent in September. There was a two-year gap between that process and Tiernan’s departure because the title first had to be removed as a union job. The town board voted in June to approve the change, making the position ineligible for overtime pay.

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