There are three candidates for two open spots on the Lakewood Village Board.
On Tuesday, village residents between noon and 9 p.m. at the Busti-Lakewood Community Center, 9 W. Summit St., Lakewood, can vote for two of three candidates for new four-year terms. Two of the candidates are incumbents - Susan Drago and Joseph Troche.
Drago was appointed to the board in May 2011 to complete the unexpired trustee term of David Wordelmann, who was elected mayor in March 2011. After her appointment, Drago was elected to finish the last year on the unfinished term in March 2012. In 2005, Troche was first elected and was re-elected in 2009. The incumbents will be running on the Republican and Property Rights party tickets.
The challenger is David DiSalvo, who is running on the Democratic and Taxpayer party tickets. DiSalvo is a professional city planner.
The Post-Journal asked the candidates three questions about running for village trustee and below are their responses.
The Post-Journal: Why do you want to be a village trustee?
DiSalvo: I could have lived anywhere, but I chose Lakewood. After spending some time here, I fell in love with the community and the lake, and decided to make this my home. What makes it even more special for me is that my three children and two grandchildren, who live less than two hours away, share my enthusiasm for my new hometown. This community is a wonderful place to live and I think I can apply my skills and experience to make it even more appealing as a favored place to live in Western New York. As a certified professional urban planner, with a master's degree in urban planning, I understand the vital importance and the challenges of maintaining and enhancing our community's quality of life. My 25 years of professional municipal planning experience in the public and private sectors, includes the management of comprehensive planning projects at the neighborhood, town and citywide levels. As a consultant with a private firm, I surveyed and evaluated historic Ellicottville properties, and recommended historic preservation, design review and zoning guidelines. I was the lead planner for the preparation of a developer solicitation package utilized by the East Aurora village administrator to attract private investment for several buildings on the Roycroft campus, a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. My experience working as an urban planner for the city of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning, taught the importance of teamwork and allowed me to gain insight into the inner workings of all functional areas of municipal government. I understand and embrace the idea that we need to work collaboratively amongst the residents and business community, at both the village and town levels. Additionally, I am confident that the combination of education and experience I have acquired would be an asset to the Village Board in developing our vision for the future. We need to preserve our history while simultaneously planning sensibly for our future. I would consider it a great honor to represent and serve all the residents and business owners in our village.
Drago: I want to use my background and experience to help the village of Lakewood enhance its services to village residents in a fiscally responsible manner. As current village trustee and the chair of the Audit and Control Committee, I carefully scrutinize each and every expenditure in the village budget, and look for opportunities to reduce expenses, implementing cost-saving ideas and look for creative shared services. My background makes me uniquely qualified to understand and appreciate the characteristics that make Lakewood a special place to raise a family. I have an investment in the community. My roots are in this community as a property owner, taxpayer and parent of three Southwestern Central School graduates. I have been an active and involved community member for the 27 years since my husband and I chose Lakewood to be our home. For the years my children were in school, I was a (parent-teacher organization) officer, room parent, and involved in after-prom and after-grad committees and sports boosters. I am a member of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, YMCA and Lakewood Rod and Gun auxiliary. I have been a registered nurse for more than 30 years and I am currently employed at Jamestown Public Schools as a school nurse at SG Love Elementary School. From my professional career I draw experience in organizational and communication skills. I have more than 20 years experience in leadership as part of the Chautauqua County Youth Board and I am current chairperson. I am involved in doing planning and budgets providing allocations for various youth services in the county. Why would I like to be your trustee? That is simple. I want to give back to the community and continue to be a part of the positive changes our Lakewood Village Board has made.
Troche: In the last few years, I have had the privilege of using my corporate background to help manage the village of Lakewood. A lot of good changes have taken place that has enhanced our lives in the village. Like the village public dock, all-in-one recycling, savings on garbage contracts, pickle ball courts, creation of the Lakewood Historic Museum, business growth (Olive Garden, TJ Maxx and Wing City Grille). I want to be your village trustee to continue the vision and promise I made in 2005, "I will continue to work hard to make sure that when it is time for your children to decide where to raise their children or grandchildren, that Lakewood is an option, not just a memory."
The Post-Journal: What do you consider to be the No. 1 issue affecting the Lakewood community and how will you address it?
DiSalvo: The biggest challenge facing the village of Lakewood today and into the near future is how to provide and maintain our current level of services, without having to raise taxes beyond the average cost-of-living increases. Population loss and an aging population are trends that are projected to continue. Our village population has declined by almost 24 percent over the last 30 years, dropping from 3,941 residents in 1980 to 3,002 residents in 2010. We should be working with adjacent municipalities to thoughtfully and sensitively determine where we can share and consolidate services. As a trustee, I will encourage the board to aggressively purse the state's Local Government Efficiency Grant program and take advantage of the technical and financial assistance to help us identify opportunities for cost savings. Only through more efficient and cost-effective delivery of public services can we offer a reasonable tax rate that will retain and attract businesses and residential development. Citizen participation at all levels should be encouraged and solicited from people of all walks of life, including our residents, business owners, students, senior citizen groups and anyone who might have an interest in being involved in planning for our future.
Drago: The top challenge for Lakewood is to keep our taxes as low as possible, while maintaining high-quality police and fire services. We want to make sure that Lakewood remains a safe and affordable village for all our residents. To accomplish that objective, we need to continue our negotiations with the town of Busti to ensure that the costs of shared services are allocated in a fair and reasonable manner for village residents. We also need to review all our expenses, and look for ways to reduce costs. For example, moving village elections from March to the general election in November would save an estimated $1,000 and would make the election more convenient for residents.
Troche: The No. 1 issues on the table today are the agreements between the town and the village that have put the financial burden on the village property taxpayers for years. It's time for both parties to come to term on agreements that are fair to both the village and the town. I would continue to address these agreements as they expire like any other business by reviewing, addressing the facts and negotiating. It would be my job to stand up for the village property tax payers that shoulder the financial burden which I am also one of. The ongoing issue for at least the last 100 years has been to improve and protect our lake. I would continue to work with and support the agencies that are dedicated to doing so.
The Post-Journal: What will one goal be you want to accomplish if you are elected, and what steps will you take to ensure you meet your goal?
DiSalvo: One goal I will pursue if elected to the village board of trustees would be to develop and aggressively enforce a comprehensive building code enforcement and compliance system that would benefit all residents in our village. Since moving here 3 years ago, I have noticed several dilapidated buildings that are an eyesore as well as a potential hazard to our community. These unsightly buildings should not be allowed to sit for months, or in some cases, years without some strong action by the village leaders. The deleterious impact of these blighted properties is two-fold: it negatively impacts on the value of surrounding properties and results in lower property tax assessments for the village. Additional problems occur when neighboring property owners become discouraged when considering possible additional improvements to their properties. As a first step to address this issue, I would recommend taking full advantage of research conducted by other municipalities and ultimately adopt a combination of successfully implemented compliance/enforcement systems utilized by other comparably sized municipalities. Once a systematic process is drafted for the village, public input will be sought from our residents. The result would be to fine tune, adopt and enforce the new ordinance or local law.
Drago: My top goal is to make Lakewood an even more attractive and affordable place to live. I want Lakewood to be the premier place to live based on its park and recreational facilities, proximity to Chautauqua Lake, and many small businesses, restaurants and locally owned shops. As part of the Recreational Committee on the Village Board, it has been my pleasure to review, revise and improve our recreational programs, such as the addition of pickleball courts and expanded beach access. We are exploring the possibility of a fenced in dog park and keeping and improving upon our summer recreation programs and Lakewood's 4th of July celebration. The improvements to our village with the addition of new restaurants, shops and businesses have put new life into Lakewood. Lakewood is on the upswing. I would like the opportunity to continue the work I have started for you.
Troche: My one goal would be to continue to making the village a place where you would like to raise kids and retire. A place you can leave your door open, take a walk and feel safe. A place where our parks would facilitate our kids and adults activity needs. A place you would be proud of to call your home. The way to continue to move toward that goal is to understand that serving the people of the village is a responsibility, not a hobby. Cutting taxes and spending by making government more efficient, listening to all the people (seniors and veterans) is not an Election Day promise, but a comment I have lived and will continue to live every day I serve the village of Lakewood.