A former Depew mayor is vying to break up the Village Preservation Party’s lock on village government in Tuesday’s election.
This campaign isn’t as contentious as the 2011 contest, when nine candidates ran for four positions and the Preservation Party swept the mayor and two trustees out of office.
Now, two Village Board members, Linda Hammer and Jesse Nikonowicz, are seeking re-election, and ex-Mayor Robert Kucewicz is their only challenger.
“I’ve got the signs from last time, so that saves me money,” quipped Kucewicz, who lost as an underfunded, third-party candidate in 2011.
The now-dominant Preservation Party has been in power for just two years.
In the 2011 village election, party candidates beat Mayor Barbara Alberti and Trustees Joseph Keefe and Carl Monti, all members of the People’s Voice of Depew Party, and another won the race to fill the final two years of the term of a retiring trustee.
Nikonowicz, who replaced the retiring trustee, is running for a full four-year term on the Village Board. He’s served for about a dozen years as treasurer of the Depew Fire Department and is president of the department’s Hose Company No. 1.
He said he ran for office in response to the previous administration’s attempt to bring in an outsider to run Depew’s Police Department and because he worried about the threat to Depew from regionalism efforts.
“There were so many different issues going on,” said Nikonowicz, 64, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army and is retired from the automotive-services industry.
Hammer, too, was first elected to fill the final two years of an open seat. She won a full four-year term in 2009 as a member of the People’s Voice Party but is running for re-election as a Preservation Party member.
She said she changed her affiliation because she believes it was in the best interest of serving village residents. “The only way to solve problems is to work together,” said Hammer, 57, who works part-time at a warehouse facility in Amherst.
Hammer said she got involved in village government after mobilizing her neighbors to oppose a private composting facility in her neighborhood.
Kucewicz is pushing to get back onto the Village Board, which he led as mayor from 1995 to 2002. He resigned the part-time post to accept appointment as the village’s full-time administrator and served in that job until 2007, when he was replaced by the board.
Kucewicz formed his Renew Depew Party after getting the itch to return to office.
“Staying out of it didn’t allow me to help people anymore. I enjoyed that part of it,” said Kucewicz, 59, a senior customer service representative for Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Not surprisingly, Hammer and Nikonowicz believe village government has run pretty well the last couple of years, with Mayor Steven Hoffman and board members focusing on quality-of-life issues and working to bring tenants to the former Quebecor site. “Everybody seems to be on the same page,” Nikonowicz said.
Kucewicz said he wants to bring another perspective to the board. “It’s pretty much a grassroots effort,” he said.
One candidate who doesn’t have to worry about Tuesday’s vote is Village Justice Gordon Willis, who is unopposed.