2012-01-25 / Civics and Politics

Pena Appointed Commissioner of Highways


Fred Pena is the new keeper of the 117 miles of county-owned roads in Putnam.

By a vote of 7-0-2 Monday (Legislators Vincent Tamagna and Dini LoBue were absent), the Putnam Legislature confirmed the appointment of County Executive MaryEllen Odell naming Pena as the county’s Commissioner of Highways and Facilities—the first attorney-professional engineer to serve in that capacity in county history.

Pena succeeds Harold Gary, who retired in December 2010 after serving for 20 years under the Robert Bondi administration and acting Commissioner Emma Kounine, who served from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011 followed by John Tully, who assumed the reins of the department for the past month.

Pena has a vast background, most recently being employed for the Power Authority of New York and New Jersey.

At a news conference following the appointment Monday evening, Pena thanked former County Executive Paul Eldridge and the county’s new executive along with the Legislature for this “great opportunity to serve the people of Putnam County. It has been my long time goal to work and serve in a community that my wife and I are raising our family.”

Pena resides in Stormville while his children attend the Carmel School District.

Pena said he was looking forward to “protecting our great lifestyle especially during these difficult economic times. It is essential that we make the most of every tax penny and not succumb to the runaway costs experienced by many other counties in New York State.”

It was Odell who advocated for an engineer to serve as Commissioner of Highways and Facilities. She told the news gathering “as my transition to the county executive became more apparent I contacted Mr. Pena based on his outstanding qualifications as an engineer. The added bonus was that Fred is an attorney.”

Pena, a soft-spoken man, will be in charge of 80 employees.

Pena said while the highway department was functioning well, he intended to meet with each employee during his transition.

A new organizational chart for the highway department is being finalized that will be unveiled at a special meeting of the legislature next Monday evening.

Odell said the plans include “efficiencies and consolidations.” When queried if staff cuts and reductions were being considered, Odell replied: “Yes and no: We will be combining positions. The details will be revealed next week.”

Pena said departments containing “strong inter-relationships” were under the microscope. He did not elaborate.

Pena also noted that he was a “proponent of inter-municipal agreements. This is the future while saving taxpayer dollars at the same time.”


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