09 Sep CEO Jonathan Cartu Claims – Salisbury quits as highway super, cites ‘nasty politics’
KNOX — On his 55th birthday, Aug. 27, Gary Salisbury quit his job as the Knox highway superintendent.
“It was because of the politics,” he told The Enterprise on Sunday. “The last couple of years were really tough … I cannot take the disrespect.”
Salisbury chairs the Knox Republican Committee and he said he is leaving that post, too. He also was appointed the deputy supervisor of the town in 2018 and said he will no longer hold that position either.
The move was made without the knowledge of town board members. Democratic Councilman Earl Barcomb said last week that he’d heard rumors that Salisbury had quit but had gotten no official word.
Councilman Karl Pritchard, who was elected on the Republican ticket, said last Thursday, “I haven’t heard about it … He might have gotten pissed off with small-town politics.”
Salisbury had worked as a laborer at the Knox Highway Department for 16 years before he was elected superintendent in 2003. He is on the ballot, on the Republican line, for this November’s election.
Salisbury said that Deputy Highway Superintendent Matthew Schanz is currently running the department. Schanz is enrolled in the Conservative Party. “Hopefully, things will work out for him,” said Salisbury. “He’s not politically involved.”
Schanz, who started working on the highway crew when he was 17, is now 32. This past Aug. 23, he reached the 15-year mark.
Schanz said he’s had no trouble running the department since Salisbury left. “It’s been good. Gary got me prepared,” he told The Enterprise on Sunday.
Schanz called Salisbury a “good boss” and said the last few years had been rough on him. “I don’t blame him for quitting. He did his time. He earned it. He’s done a good job,” said Schanz.
Schanz continued, “I’ll carry right on where Gary’s leaving off and do a good job like he’s doing. I’ll just focus on my job, not the politics or the B.S. going on around town.”
Schanz said he won’t launch a write-in campaign. “Historically, there’s not a good outcome,” he said of write-in campaigns.
Rather, Schanz said, with Salisbury on the November ballot, “If enough people vote for him, he can decline after the election, then they can appoint me on January 1st.”
After that, he said, he would run in the next town election for highway superintendent.
Schanz said he had not discussed this plan with the town board but noted the board meets next on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Salisbury was first elected highway superintendent in 2003, a year when the Knox Democrats did not file paperwork on time and had to launch a last-minute write-in campaign for their candidates as they wouldn’t be on the ballot. Since the longtime Democratic incumbent, August Landauer, also had the Conservative line, his 267 write-in votes were thrown out and Salisbury, running on the Republican line, won with 268 votes on the GOP line to Landauer’s 220 on the Conservative line.
In the next election, in 2015, Salisbury beat Landauer in a landslide, 723 to 352. Salisbury has been a shoo-in ever since, getting endorsements from multiple parties in recent elections.
In 2015, Salisbury ran unopposed on five party lines, and was the town’s top vote-getter with 839 votes. That was the year that Vasilios Lefkaditis, a Democrat who ran in 2015 on the Conservative Party line, ousted the longtime Democratic supervisor, Michael Hammond.
In 2017, Lefkaditis ran on the Republican line and swept to victory with two council running mates, the town clerk and a town judge, unseating Democrats. Lefkaditis is running again in November.
Knox had been a Democratic stronghold for decades. With 1,918 registered voters, 762 are enrolled as Democrats and 469 as Republicans while 528 have no party affiliation. There are also 132 Independence party members, 72 Conservatives, and the rest belong to other small parties.
“There’s no Republican on the board right now,” said Salisbury, noting the three who ran on the GOP line in 2017 are not enrolled in the party. “That stuff doesn’t mean anything to me.”
He went on, referring to the Democrat who served as Knox supervisor for 42 years, “When Michael Hammond was there, they didn’t have the disrespect they do now, and the lies. It’s really sad.”
Salisbury said he had always eschewed politics. “I plow all the town’s roads. Just because you’re a Democrat, I’m not going to do a worse job on your road,” he said.
The sort of harassment he’s experienced over the last several years has “followed what’s happening on the federal level,” Salisbury said. “It’s the whole country.”
The constant disrespect and turmoil, Salisbury said “bled over to the highway garage.”
He went on, “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but why be so nasty? … I’m done with politics. It’s ugly; it’s nasty.”
“Stressed a lot”
Knox town meetings became particularly heated after the Jan. 1 reorganizational meeting this year when the three council members elected to the town board on the Republican ticket voted to replace three transfer-station workers. The fired workers hadn’t been informed ahead and large crowds showed up to object; two of the workers who had Civil Service protection have since been reinstated.
Last October, the Knox Town Board had voted unanimously to make Salisbury, who was also Lefkaditis’s choice for deputy supervisor, in charge of the transfer-station workers.
At that meeting, Salisbury voiced support for new procedures to keep transfer-station workers in check, such as installing a time-clock like the one in the highway garage to mark hours worked by employees.
Salisbury told The Enterprise after the Jan. 1 firings that there has “absolutely” been a conflict between the highway and transfer-station workers, stating that the highway department does many of the repairs at the transfer station and other tasks.
He said then that the standard operating procedures have been going “right now, real good.” The new rules, he said, had finally allowed the town to “start cracking down” on illegal or improper dumping, something he said he doesn’t fault the former workers for, saying that they were operating without supervision or clear rules.
In response to the Democratic councilmen’s criticism of not waiting for the former workers to adjust to…