Niagara Gazette — It’s a battle of the political newcomer and the wily veteran for the Democrat line of the Lewiston Town Supervisor election in November.
Before either can battle a Republican opponent in the upcoming general election, Dennis Brochey and Michael Johnson will need to find out which Democrat will move forward as registered town and village voters of the party hit the polls for a primary election from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Brochey, a current Lewiston Village Trustee, believes his lack of political experience can be made up with his standing in the local community as both a business owner and his character.
“Experience as a public servant has its place but should not be the only factor,” he said. “Honesty, integrity and being trustworthy are basic necessities. Being in tuned with what the people want and need are important factors. For three months now as I walked door to door throughout all 14 districts of the Town of Lewiston, I’ve heard with an open ear the problems that many people living in the town and village are coping with.”
Problems, he said, like the ongoing standing water issue at the Lewiston Riverwalk housing development and the poor condition of many of the roads, like Bridgeman and Swann roads.
These are all old problems the town should have focused its efforts on, he said. Instead, the town government invested more than a year planning a civic center which voters rejected during a special election in July.
Then there’s the financial instability of the town’s future, he said. Brochey questions Johnson, the town’s current finance director, and his involvement in borrowing almost $2 million to balance budgets and repair roadways.
The endorsed Lewiston and Niagara County Democratic candidate said it’s the town’s No. 1 issue heading into next year.
“I truly believe that I will have my hands full in repairing the present financial imbalance that is about to hit the town,” he said. “Non-stop spending on projects with little or no return without proper investigation has got to stop. For both the 2012 and 2013 budgets there was not enough revenue to match their expenses. So, instead of looking for ways to reduce spending or cut the size of the government, my opponent asked the town board to take almost $2 million dollars out of the bank to balance the last two budgets. The Town of Lewiston is being bled to death by this spending.”
But fixing problems others won’t is nothing new to Brochey, he said, even if he hasn’t completed his first term as a village trustee.
The 61-year-old Brochey, who is married to his wife Cathy and father to two adult children, said his brief time in office has been productive, finding ways to reduce water and sewer rates village residents pay despite increasing costs.
It’s all part of the mentality he said he’d bring to the office of supervisor.
“My service on the (village board) has brought me understanding and experience in local government,” he said. “I researched our village budget and found ways to lower water and sewer rates while the town found a way to raise the sewer rate. I worked to lower the village’s share on the police budget and now the town is trying to increase it back. I have already (said) I will not be agreeing to any more raises.”
In terms of experience, Johnson is Brochey’s polar opposite. Having spent 14 years as a town councilman and the last four as the finance director, he’s been in the town’s decision room for a while. He’s been able to travel to Albany and discuss the needs of Lewiston residents with state officials.
“I believe I have the most experience to move Lewiston forward,” Johnson said. “I have had a great working relationship with the Village of Lewiston, all other local governments and the state and national governments as well.”
Johnson, also 61, said the state is involved in one of the biggest issues the town faces moving forward. He said unfunded mandates and costs related to contractual agreements – both of which have the potential to cause the town to once again consider an override of the state’s property tax levy cap – are of the highest priority.
Finding new sources of revenue to balance out the expenses is also a must-do, he said.
“We consistently look for new sources of revenue to keep our expenditures affordable for the town,” he said. “In addition, it is extremely important to continue monitoring our current revenues through contractual agreements to ensure we receive the correct amounts.”
Johnson said other issues include repairing drainage issues, which have become a common complaint from residents in recent years, and infrastructure issues are also on his radar.
Like Brochey, Johnson is also a resident of the village. He is currently residing with his real estate partner, Sue Ehmke, while his two adult daughters and their families, including three grandchildren, also reside in the town.
He owns Johnson Appraisal Co. and is also an associate real estate broker with Realty USA.
“I have been a very active and positive member of the Lewiston community,” he said. “I have a great deal of passion and love for Lewiston and Niagara County. I have been dedicated to this community for over 35 years.”
Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251, or follow on Twitter @timchipp.