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Thurston Town Board hires first female highway superintendent

A town in Steuben County hired its first female—and youngest—highway superintendent.

Saige McGarvey, 19, took the position after a newly elected official stepped down weeks before signing the oath of office on Jan. 1.

The town of Thuston’s newly elected highway superintendent, Christopher Volino, decided to move from the area weeks after the 2023 election.

After a brief search, Saige McGarvey was appointed the first week of January 2024.

Thurston Town Supervisor, Michael Volino, who is the brother to Christopher Volino, said six people applied for the position. However, he was impressed by McGarvey’s willingness to learn and give back to the town where she lives.

“She stated she wanted to work with the highway workers, learn from them [...] also have them learn from her what she knew,” said Volino. “That for me kind of sold the deal, the humility and the willingness to want to learn and grow as a leader.”

The town board voted unanimously to hire McGarvey to serve a one-year term. The highway superintendent is responsible for the safety and maintenance of 54 miles of roadways in Thurston.

“A lot of it is making sure that you're serving the community by making their roads accessible at all times of year and keeping them in as good of condition as you can,” said McGarvey.

McGarvey said the position was intimidating in the beginning; but the three crew members she oversees in the highway department want to see her succeed.

“They've kind of taken me under their wing almost,” expressed McGarvey. “And they just want to see me grow and learn as much as I possibly can while I'm here. So, it's not so much intimidating anymore, because I know that they're willing to work with me.”

McGarvey said some of the new job tasks and responsibilities will be a learning curve. However, she explained that her two-year certificate program in heavy equipment from the BOCES Coopers Campus in Painted Post gave her skills in building roads and road maintenance. She also worked for the Steuben County Department of Public Works as a laborer where she operated a front-end loader to move heavy, solid materials.

As far as leadership skills, McGarvey attributes those to her involvement in athletics. From cheerleading to soccer, softball and basketball, she said the role of sports gave her an outlet to assert herself and be a leader in difficult situations.

She also said that she is just as qualified as the next guy.

“I'm proud of myself for taking this step and being the first woman. But at the same time, I don't think it's anything too special because I feel women can do anything that a man can do.”

McGarvey does not currently have her commercial driver’s license.

For now, she is learning the office administration and keeping a close eye on weather systems. She goes out in the town’s pickup truck to help plow snow when needed.

She also plans to be on the ballot for the highway superintendent position in the special election this November. The elected position is typically a two-year term. If she wins in November, she would serve for one year as an elected official and may choose to run for a full two-year term in 2025.

The position currently pays $40,000 per year.