Fred Voigt spent four decades as a watchdog on election-law matters in Philadelphia, first as a deputy city solicitor, then as an assistant district attorney and finally in 28 years as executive director of the Committee of Seventy.

Now it's his turn to be watched.

Voigt started work yesterday as a deputy city commissioner, reporting to Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione.

Voigt said he did not anticipate any weird vibes from working for Tartaglione even though the Committee of Seventy is an independent monitor for her office.

"Fundamentally, I never had an adversarial relationship with this office," Voigt said from City Hall on his first day. "It's always been a cooperative one."

Voigt retired from the Committee of Seventy in 2005 and was replaced by former Daily News editor Zack Stalberg.

"I think Fred is one of the best election lawyers around," Stalberg said yesterday "It's a plus for the commissioners to have him working there."

Voigt replaces Ed Schulgen, a 24-year veteran of the City Commission, who died last month from pancreatic cancer.

"He was a wonderful guy," Voigt said of Schulgen. "He's going to be missed."

Voigt said he comes to the job at a "fascinating time" because of the April 22 primary election. Many political pundits had written off the Pennsylvania primary as inconsequential to nominating presidential candidates for the November general election. But with Democratic U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama running neck-and-neck, Pennsylvania could find itself with an important role.

"Now it looks like it's going to be colossal," said Voigt, who worries that registered independents don't realize they won't be able to vote in the primary unless they re-register with one of the political parties by March 24. He plans to ask the City Commission at its meeting on Wednesday to start planning for those registrations.

Voigt yesterday said he was not sure what his salary would be, calling it "50-something." City payroll records show that Schulgen was paid $58,916 a year.