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Source: Newsday

Ex-pol from Suffolk tapped to be water authority head


Posted: April 25, 2010
Originally Published: April 22, 2010

In a surprise move, former Democratic Suffolk lawmaker James Gaughran has been put forward to become the chairman of the Suffolk Water Authority, over fellow board member and former Democratic County Executive Patrick Halpin.

A resolution naming Gaughran, 53, of Northport, to head the $150-million agency was filed Wednesday to replace Michael LoGrande, who has held the top spot for 20 years and whose term expires May 29. Gaughran, who would earn $32,000 a year, would serve until 2013.

Gaughran, who could be voted on as early as May 11, said he wanted to follow LoGrande in continuing to "professionalize" the agency, and "keep the political clubhouse out."

The authority, once criticized as a patronage bin, has more than 600 employees, none under civil service, and supplies water to more than 1.3 million residents.

The choice of Gaughran was unexpected because the better-known Halpin has been the point man for the board's four-member Democratic majority in dealing with LoGrande, a former Republican acting county executive whom Halpin defeated in 1987.

But Adrienne Esposito, Citizen's Campaign for the Environment executive director, said Gaughran, as a Huntington Town board member and county lawmaker, has "always been . . . reasonable, smart and thoughtful. And he understands Long Island's groundwater issues."

Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) called the post a "big position that has a huge impact on Suffolk. I'd hope my Democratic colleagues canvassed a host of names to come up with the best and brightest." Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) said no interviews were held, but Halpin and Gaughran were both well known to majority lawmakers.

Party sources also say Gaughran had strong backing of county Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer because he has stayed heavily involved in the local party.

"Jim is always there when you need him and you can't say that about a lot of people," said a high-level party source, a reference to Halpin.