Huntington town officials have appointed a new deputy director of general services as part of a reorganization of the department that was started earlier this year.
Huntington Station business owner Keith Barrett's appointment to the recently created position was approved by the town board 4 to 1 at this week's town board meeting.
Barrett was hired by the town as an $85,000-a-year general services department executive assistant in March. His new appointment comes with a $10,000 raise. His responsibilities will include overseeing the division of vehicle operations and maintenance, off-street parking maintenance and parks and grounds maintenance.
"Keith is a successful businessman who comes with expertise," Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said of Barrett, who owns Barrett Automotive in Huntington Station and is the president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District.
However, the appointment has town board member Gene Cook, an Independence Party member, crying foul. He characterized the appointment as a political payback for Barrett stepping aside in last year's Democratic Party primary for town board.
"As far as his accusations are they are unfounded; it's not how anything went down," Barrett said. "I had some ideas for streamlining vehicle maintenance, this is what I do for a living..."
Barrett, along with three others, had been poised for a Democratic primary against now-freshman town board member Tracey Edwards, but backed out. At the time, Suffolk County Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said Barrett's and the other Democratic candidates' withdrawal from the primary was an effort "to go into this election unified."
Edwards said it was actually seven Democratic Party candidates who stepped aside to give her the nomination, and that "all received the same thing in return: A heartfelt 'thank you' and a commitment that I would do my best to represent Huntington."
Edwards said she had been asked by Petrone after her election in November to streamline departments across the town. After a three-month review, a reorganization of the general services department was approved by the board in May by a 5 to 0 vote.
Petrone said Barrett's original job had been funded but was in contingency. He said cost-saving efficiencies introduced by Barrett into the department, such as in-house car inspections and participation in a car-leasing program, will pay for Barrett's pay increase.