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Third-party candidate looks to upend incumbent Brasher Highway Superintendent on Tuesday

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BRASHER FALLS - Larry Hewlett has held the title of Brasher highway superintendent for more than a decade, but third-party challenger Duane Black is looking to take over the helm in January.

The two men will face in the only contest town race on the Brasher ballot Tuesday.

\Mr. Hewlett, a 43-year-old resident of the Maple Ridge Road in Helena, has been the head of the highway department since 2000 and is about to wrap up his third term.

He said that his career path was heavily paved by the jobs he had before landing his current gig.

“I worked with construction with Seaway Timber for 12 or 13 years before I came here. I learned a lot with those people. I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and I’ve been around equipment and trucks pretty much my whole life,” Mr. Hewlett said.

Mr. Hewlett’s highway crew consists of three full-time employees and one part-timer, but he feels that the close knit group gets the job done.

“I think that with the small group that we have, we get a lot done. Sixty five miles of road is what we have to maintain and that is doubled for each side of the road,” he said. “We now run a night shift at night from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. We are trying to keep the main routes open during the night, and we didn’t have to raise taxes to do it.”

Mr. Hewlett said that despite his busy schedule as highway superintendent he has found time to campaign, putting up signs and “doing the politicianing thing” at night.

“I’ve been here for 13 years. I hardly get any complaints on what I do, and I’m hoping people vote for me again. In the wintertime I do 34 miles of roads for the county to try and make revenue and keep taxes down,” the incumbent said. “It’s hard to read it. I don’t know much about (Mr. Black.) I think people should vote for me because in the trying times we’ve had, the taxes have been staying at the same level. I’ve been trying to keep everything at a flow.”

He indicated that under his reign the department has usually purchased a new dump truck every four years and he is hoping to push that period to five years.

Mr. Black is a 55-year-old contractor who resides just outside the hamlet of North Lawrence near the Brasher-Lawrence town boundary. Mr. Black says that he was driven to run for the position following the town’s decision to build a million dollar highway garage.

Brasher officials are finalizing the planning process for that new structure, which they say will be paid for with gaming compact monies.

The town garage has been a frequent subject of discussion in the town of Brasher for years. The existing garage, located in Helena, was purchased from the St. Lawrence Seaway for $1 in 1958, and town crews built the foundation and walls for the steel building that had previously served as a storage shed for the Seaway.

Brasher town officials have noted numerous issues regarding the garage including its inability to hold all of the highway department vehicles, hot air furnaces that are hanging from the ceiling and some walls that have crumbled and required repairs.

“I’d like to go to the town board and address the issues I have with the new town garage after the election is over,” he said. “I think I could do a really good job as highway superintendent in Brasher. I have a lot of experience and have done a lot of big projects.”

Mr. Black said his work on the campaign trail has been steady. He has been seeing residents around the area for the last couple of months, as well as sending out letters to various media outlets.

The contractor said that his extensive work experience and work ethic would be assets if he were to be elected to the post.

“I ran my own construction company for the past 15 years. All kinds of equipment is involved. I can run any kinds of equipment and have plenty of experience with that,” Mr. Black said. “I know how to motivate people and work well with my workers.”

Mr. Black also has 33 years of experience working with General Motors, Alcoa, and paper mills in Potsdam. Additionally, he is a certified millwright, obtained a journeyman card from the state of New York, and has a commercial driver’s license Class A, which enables him to operate any kind of vehicle.

The challenger has also done work on the town of Moira’s highway garage.

“I’m putting a whole new face lift on the garage in Moira. We’re doing the whole new building at a tenth of the cost of that new building, the one they want to spend $1.5 million on, in Moira, which is 14 miles from Brasher,” the third-party candidate said.

Regardless of the election result, Mr. Black said that it is important for voters to make their voices heard.

“I’d like to encourage every possible voter to go out and vote. That’s how you make a change, by going out and voting,” he said.

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