Villages in Niagara County will look to the polls on Tuesday – paying special attention to the challenges of attracting new revenues and holding the line on costs.
Contested mayoral elections will draw voters to the polls in Wilson and Barker. In Middleport, an incumbent mayor and trustees face no challenge.
Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. in all three village halls.
There are no village elections planned for Youngstown or Lewiston this year.
In Wilson, Deputy Mayor Bernard “Bernie” Leiker is running against Trustee Gerard “Jerry” Kadryna.
In Barker, Mayor Herbert “Herb” Meyer faces competition from Trustee Aaron Nellist.
Also in Barker, political newcomers Mark Wilson and Gregory Kerth are running unchallenged for two available trustee spots.
In Middleport, Mayor Richard Westcott and Trustees Wayne Blumrick and Rebecca Hinkson face no opposition at the polls, for terms of two more years in office.
Here is how the village races around the county shape up.
Kadryna and Leiker have been running the village as a two-man board since former mayor Patrick Kelahan resigned last fall to move with his family to Newfane.
Now, they are facing off in a bid for mayor to lead this village of 1,300 residents. One will win and one will lose – and will likely stay on as a trustee.
Kadryna is backed by the Republican, Independence and Wilson Taxpayer parties. Leiker is running on the Democratic and Wilson Community party lines.
Leiker, 64, and his wife, Colleen, moved to Wilson six years ago from Williamsville, after he retired as an English teacher and administrator in the Williamsville School District. They have one son.
Leiker currently serves as president of the Wilson Lions Club and has been active in numerous organizations, including Watch Wilson Grow and the Wilson Business and Professional Association.
“I don’t think of the job of mayor as part time – it takes a full-time commitment,” Leiker said. “I strive to make the village safer and better.”
Leiker said he’s been in touch with the Empire State Development Corp. to try to secure funding to fix up the village’s main street, Lockport Street, and local parks. He said the state encourages multi-use buildings on a community’s main street, and the village’s Planning Board is currently working on rezoning to allow for this. The village and town also are close to adopting a Master Plan, he said.
“State money looks very promising for us to help fix up some of these buildings,” Leiker said. “We’re looking at new facades for buildings along the main street, new streetscapes, sidewalks and lighting. ... I’m pretty excited because I think we’re on the threshold of something, and it could really help tourism here.”
Leiker also pointed to a number of initiatives, like providing sidewalks from Lake Street to Krueger Park, and the establishment of a Welcome Center and dog park in Krueger Park, as well as the planned construction of a Dollar General store in the village.
“We are partnering with all of the local organizations to make the village better, but a lot more work has to be done,” he said.
Helping find creative ways to fund the dredging of the harbor and reducing village costs – perhaps through shared services with the town – are two important issues facing the board, Leiker said.
“When I became a trustee, I developed a foundation to become mayor,” he said. “I worked hard as a trustee and as the deputy mayor. The ability to partner with people to make things happen – that’s the key here.”
Kadryna, 64, has been employed as the store manager at Wilson Lakeside Market since 1990.
A Buffalo native, he moved to Wilson more than two decades ago. He and his wife, Gail, have five children. He has served as the announcer for Wilson High School football and basketball games for more than 10 years and also has coached baseball for many years.
Kadryna is heading the Wilson Sports Boosters’ Wall of Fame golf tournament and has long been involved in other community fundraisers. He also is a past president of the Wilson Lions Club.
Kadryna said rising sewer rates brought on by the departure of Pfeiffer Foods in November 2009 – which erased 150 jobs – weighs heavily on residents’ minds, as does keeping the tax rate down.
“We lost a big user when we lost Pfeiffer, and we’re working to get someone in there and get it working again, and we hope shortly to have someone in there,” he said.
“We need to get new businesses into our area,” Kadryna said. “We have to upgrade our main street and our Planning Board is working right now on rezoning some of the district to help people who may want to have businesses in their homes.”
“Wilson is a summer-type place, but my goal is to make it a destination year round,” Kadryna said. “Look at the Woodcock Brothers (Brewery) – the time and money they invested in that is unbelievable, and it’s probably the jewel of Wilson right now.”
“We need to push – and push hard – to get our harbor dredged because our community thrives on that, and once people stop coming here because they’re afraid their boats will get stuck, trying to get them to come back here is the hardest thing in the world,” Kadryna said.
Kadryna said he’s “proud of Wilson and I believe in its potential. We need to hold government accountable to our neighbors and I want to be an independent voice in our government.”
Kadryna was elected to a four-year trustee term last March. Leiker was elected a trustee in March 2010. The new mayor is expected to appoint someone shortly for a one-year term in order to restore the full three-person board.
Meyer is finishing his first two-year term as mayor of this village of 540 residents.
A retired master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, Meyer, 78, served 17 years on the Planning Board before joining the Village Board as a trustee in 2010. He was elected without competition to succeed Mayor JoAnn Greenwald when she retired in 2011.
Meyer and his wife, Janet, have four children and have lived in Barker for 20 years. Meyer has served as an emergency medical technician for 20 years for the Barker Fire Department. He’s also treasurer of the Somerset Conservation Club and a member of the Somerset Masonic Lodge.
Meyer counts his oversight of the completion of Phase II of the water line replacement project as among his proudest accomplishments as mayor. By replacing 100-year-old lines, the project has also boosted the pressure and volume of water available for volunteer firefighters.
Last May, the Village Board awarded a $749,721 contract to Milhurst Construction to complete the project begun in 2010. The village had received a $743,491 state grant for Phase I of the project in 2009, bolstered by federal economic stimulus money.
Meyer also said the village is “moving forward” on redeveloping the former Birds Eye processing plant land. In 2007, the village purchased a seven-acre portion of the property and has been trying to market it for redevelopment ever since.
Within the past year, two parcels have been sold on the property, Meyer said. While the plans for one of the parcels are on hold, the other is being cleaned up to make way for a micro-brewery, he said.
“Our Planning Board chairman, Bob Longstreet, is working on a long-range plan for that property and there are several possibilities, including a senior living complex,” Meyer said.
Nellist, 34, is finishing his first term as a trustee.
An employee of the State Canal Corp. since 2001, Nellist and his wife, Heather, have two children in the Barker schools. He has lived in the village since 1997, but attended Barker schools. He is a youth baseball coach and vice president of Local 527 for the State Canal Corp.
“We’ve been able to work through our differences on this board for what’s in the best interest for the community,” Nellist said. “The biggest thing has been to see the water line project through to completion – that was a long process, but we’re starting to reap the benefits.”
“I think the village’s relationship with the town could be better,” he said. “We lost our police contract with the town last year, and I think it’s redundant to have police in the town and in the village, and we could sit down and hash something out. I think we can share costs with the town on some other things, too.”
A year ago, the Somerset Town Board voted to sever its 22-year contract for coverage with the Barker Police Department. It subsequently created a constabulary to provide coverage for town residents.
Nellist also said he’s been courting different agencies who might be interested in establishing assisted living or senior housing units in the village. He said there’s a need to redevelop the Birds Eye property.
“The village is constantly changing, and we need to build on that success,” he said. “I’m ready for the next challenge.”
In addition to the mayoral race, two political newcomers know they will secure seats on the Barker Village Board Tuesday.
Gregory Kerth, 65, retired three years ago as a produce manager for Tops and continues to work part time at the Wine and Liquor Outlet in Lockport. He and his family moved to Barker in 1991. He’s running on the Better Government Party line.
“Trying to keep costs down but still maintain services” is on his list of priorities, he said. “As a retiree, we have to control costs in our own house – and we need to do that in government, too.”
This is also the first time Mark Wilson, 29, has run for public office. An employee of Sunrise Door and Woodworks in Gasport, he has lived in the village the past year, but attended Barker schools. He and his girlfriend, Samantha, have a toddler son.
“We moved to the village because we planned on raising our family here,” said Wilson. “I like a smaller community and I like to have a say in what’s going on. I’ve been going to the board meetings since I moved into the village. People want to know where the money’s going, what it can be spent on and what it shouldn’t be spent on.”
Westcott, 63, a Delphi retiree, took office as mayor in April 2011. He is unopposed once again in this election to head the government for this village of 1,840 for the next two years.
He served as a Middleport trustee from 1990 to 1996 and then was elected again as a trustee in 2008 and 2010. With a year left on his second trustee term, he was uncontested in his bid for mayor in 2011 when Mayor Julie Maedl chose not to seek a sixth term. He is running on the Action Party ticket.
Westcott is a Middleport native and 45-year member of the Middleport Fire Department, where he served as president and chief.
He and his wife, Vonda,have two children. He’s treasurer for the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, St. Joan of Arc, and served a decade on the Community Advisory Panel and Middleport Advisory Group.
“Maintaining the levels of service is the hardest part (of village government), with the economic burden of unfunded state mandates for retirement and health care,” Westcott said. “Where do you absorb these costs? We have limited ways. It’s a pretty good balancing act to make sure you get the most for your dollar.”
Blumrick, representing the Middleport First Party line, and Hinkson, backed by the Village Party, are also unopposed in their re-election bids for their second two-year terms Tuesday.