LEWISTON – Voters made their voices heard in November, choosing to shake up Lewiston town government by electing a relative political newcomer to the top spot as supervisor.
Dennis J. Brochey also will be the only Democrat on an otherwise all-Republican Town Board.
Last year, a cloud appeared to be hanging over the Town of Lewiston, marked most notably by an FBI investigation of the former supervisor, Steven L. Reiter, and an expensive referendum held in July that resulted in the overwhelming defeat of a plan touted by the board to build a new recreation/senior center.
Brochey, 62, has lived in the Youngstown-Lewiston area for the past 50 years and spent the past year and a half as a village trustee. He recently retired as the owner of an auto repair shop, which he ran for 40 years on Center Street.
Brochey is genial, soft-spoken and adamant about conducting anything he does, whether political or in the business world, with integrity.
He faced concerns about integrity as he ran for town supervisor.
“When I ran my campaign, one person had a whole trunk full of ugly fliers to go against one of the people I was going against. I said I didn’t want any part of it,” he said. “They sent at least one out that I didn’t authorize, but I said I didn’t want any part of mudslinging.”
Brochey said, “I think I’ve gained a lot of trust from people (by running my business.) I enjoy talking to people. But when running for both trustee and supervisor, I never made promises. Vote for people on their merit and what they stand for.”
Brochey is a weight lifter and bench presses between 225 and 280 pounds. He’s used that interest for charity and over the past 10 years has coordinated the Red Brick Bench Press, which started in Lewiston and has since moved to the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo. Funds raised at this year’s event, set for Feb. 15, will go to the Iraq/Afghanistan Memorial in the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.
He said he was content and enjoyed his work on the Village Board, noting that he got “choked up” when he wrote his letter of resignation.
“I think we are going to have a very close bond, working together with the village and the town,” Brochey said.
But he said he saw issues that need to be addressed in the town, the leading one being bringing in more revenue to the town, which in turn will help the village.
Brochey said the campaign for the Lewiston Civic Center was “absolutely a waste of time and money.”
He said that he attended as many community sessions as he could on the plan for the new recreation/senior center, and it was one of the things that confirmed his decision to run.
“I kept looking over the numbers and the budget, and none of it added up,” the new supervisor said.
He said town officials projected that it would cost as much as $9.3 million to build the center, but a consultant from Florida estimated the cost could be more like $14 million. “To bring in soccer teams from a five-hour radius for tournaments, it would cost $250,000 to advertise this and to expect first-year losses of $250,000,” he said. “You are looking at half a million in losses in the first year.”
Brochey said that since he was elected, he has been at Town Hall every day looking over the books and having meetings.
He said it is a “bad financial time” for the town and admits that sometimes he wonders what he is getting himself into.
He said that he can’t make necessary changes as one person but that as supervisor he has the right to appoint his own secretary, deputy supervisor and finance director.
“I’m very happy with the secretary,” said Brochey, adding that he will be weighing other appointments.
“I’m ready to go in and tackle the issues. I know I am going to make some people happy, and I hope that’s the majority,” Brochey said. “But for every group you make happy, there’s got to be someone unhappy – no doubt.”
He said complaints about Reiter taking gas for his personal vehicle, which was reportedly the focus of the FBI investigation, is something that came up in the minutes in 2010. Brochey said that as he spoke to the public during his campaign, the current board members came under scrutiny for not addressing this issue. However, he said he will not make any accusations because he wasn’t there and is not an investigator. He said his job will be to cut costs and bring in revenue.
“People know my integrity,” he said. “They trust me, and I am going to work on that trust and take that trust back to the people for the entire board.
“In business I used to tell my employees: You make your customer happy, and he comes back and might tell a few people about you, but you treat one person bad, and he’s going to tell everybody. So you really got to work hard to please people as much as you can. I didn’t just turn wrenches all my life. I am a business owner, and I am going to ask (the board and the public) to work with me and give me a chance.”