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Town of Wheatfield: Cliffe will not run for re-election

Tue, Apr 18th 2017 05:20 pm

Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe has announced he will not seek re-election this November.

"I have been planning this since 2009 when I first ran," Cliffe said. "My goal was to have two four-year terms. I was not able to change to four-year terms, but after eight years, it is time for someone else to bring their energy and ideas to this critical position. I'm a strong believer in term limits; I include myself in this concept." 

Cliffe said the Town Board members and department heads have worked together to accomplish "a great deal" since he took on the position of supervisor.

He said the "critical component was getting a handle on finances, and we have done that."

Improvements to Fairmount Park, including the recent installation of handicapped-accessible pathways and new restrooms, were completed, as well.

Cliffe also said "substantial strides" have been made in the town's recreation programs.

He added, "We've done several major infrastructure repairs and improvements, and passed the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, the comprehensive plan, the farm protection plan and a new solar law, and so much more."

Also several drainage improvements were made throughout the town.

However, there is more to be done, Cliffe said.

"We have to continue with maintenance, and we also need to keep looking for improvements in troubled areas," he said.

Looking to the future, Cliffe said some of the challenges his successor will face are seeing through the "final disposition" of the Niagara Sanitation Landfill, including the completion of the fence around the site.

"Of course, the main work is being done by DEC, but the town will continue to be involved," he said.

Cliffe also said the challenge of how to install Wheatfield's portion of the proposed Greenway Trail bike path will be something to be worked on in the future.

When asked if he had any advice for his successor, Cliffe said, "The single most important asset of any position of authority is the ability to listen and learn. Whether there is a major problem to solve, or someone's minor issue in their backyard, they both need the attention of our supervisor. Listen to the advice of our experts, as well as the volunteers who are willing to share ideas. Also, we have a great group of department heads, all of whom put our residents needs ahead of their own. Listen to their concerns, ask some tough questions and offer ideas, then let the departments carry out their work with continued focus on residents."

As for staying involved with politics, Cliffe said he is "not planning to stay on the inside, but I'll always be ready to help where needed."

Meanwhile, the Wheatfield Republican Committee has endorsed longtime Wheatfield resident Don MacSwan to run for supervisor. In a press release by the Wheatfield Republican Committee, Republican Chairman and Wheatfield Deputy Supervisor Larry Helwig said MacSwan is "a great choice who brings a lot of experience and continuity to the ticket."

Helwig added, "Having lived here and worked for the town for over 30 years, (MacSwan) understands the needs of the town and how to keep moving us forward."

MacSwan began working with the town in 1967 on a part-time basis. He said he was drafted into the U.S. Army and, when he returned, began working with the town Highway Department as a mechanic and an equipment operator. MacSwan then transferred to the Recreation Department to help develop the town park system. Later, he became the town building inspector for many years.

He has also worked with and Cambria and the Niagara County Community College dormitory project. MacSwan currently works part-time for the Town of Lewiston's Building Department.

He also worked on the Wheatfield Planning Board and did extensive work with the Wheatfield Community Center.

"I've always loved the Town of Wheatfield," MacSwan said. "I've been here most of my life, and I always felt in my heart that I wanted to be the town supervisor. In a way, I almost came back to the town for how good they've been to me for so many years, and believing that I can run an efficient and (firm) government as I did as a department head."

Along with Cliffe, Councilman Arthur Gerbec, who has served in his position for nearly nine years, has decided not to seek re-election after completing his term this year.

"I tend to be a believer in two-term ... candidates," Gerbec said. "I think it's a good idea to get new citizens in our community involved and give them the opportunity. I mean, I was strong enough and old enough to hold the position, but that's not fair. And just to do the two terms, I think that's enough. I did my part, now let somebody else do theirs."

During his time as councilman, Gerbec has worked to create the town's Fire Advisory Board, has been very involved with planning the town's future veterans memorial for Fairmount Park, and has helped to lead the town's Comprehensive Plan Task Force.

Gerbec said he plans to stay involved with politics in the town, possibly joining the Planning Board or Zoning Board in the future.

The Republican Committee also endorsed the Hon. Erin DeLabio, who is seeking the Family Court judge position that is being vacated by the Hon. John Batt. DeLabio is a Wheatfield resident and currently a town Justice.

"Judge DeLabio has served this community for years with nothing short of high grades," Helwig said. "Her experience and fair approach to the bench cannot be matched; she's a wonderful candidate and we're proud she's from Wheatfield."

The committee decided to endorse a list of Republican incumbents, including Councilman Randy Retzlaff; Niagara County legislators Becky Wydysh, Kathryn Lance and David Godfrey; and Coroner Joseph Mantione.

The committee also endorsed Curt Doktor for Gerbec's position on the Town Board.

Gary Strenkoski, a local businessman and longtime Wheatfield resident, is vying to replace DeLabio as the town justice.

Tribune Editor Lauren Zaepfel contributed to this report.

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