TO HEAR BILL KINDEL tell it, he came "that close" last year to running for Amherst supervisor. But after taking a hard look at the consequences, he altered his sights and opted to become the town's clerk.
As a result, the veteran Town Board member and former Amherst Republican Party boss crowed, "I've never been happier."
In fact, William L. Kindel, 57, seems downright giddy about his new $55,000-a-year post. He says the job provides all kinds of perks, ranging from an opportunity to clean up the tarnished image left by his predecessor to being able to stand at his office window and drink in the idyllic view of ducks feeding in a Currier & Ives creek.
In a wide-ranging candid "entry" interview this week, his first since he was named town clerk Oct. 1, Bill Kindel had no assurances for his former Town Board colleagues who had anointed him in the faint hope that he would park his ambitions.
"There were no deals for my coming here," Kindel said. "If I want to run for supervisor down the road, I will run."
Until now, Kindel's flirtation with the supervisor's job in the 1989 election was a closely guarded, in-house secret.
Out of frustration, Kindel, an avowed environmentalist from his teens, labeled Supervisor Jack Sharpe "Black Top Jack."
"The opposition was picturing us as Hitler driving a bulldozer, and nobody on the board was paying any attention," Kindel recalled. Kindel says Sharpe took his opposition personally, "and he came on to me like a kick boxer on every issue."
As Sharpe's bete noir, Kindel said, he contemplated a coup in late 1989 before the municipal election. As a result, 70 of 82 Republican town committeemen who were polled pledged their support to endorse Kindel.
"It would have been brutal, but I would have won," Kindel said.
But then, he had second thoughts, he said.
"I would have had to give up my job (as a salesman). I would have had to mortgage my home, and I would have had to borrow a lot of money to take on Jack," he said.
In the November 1989, election, Sharpe was defeated. But the winner was Daniel Ward, a Democrat.
"I could have beaten both of them," Kindel said.
For Bill Kindel, life on the Town Board under Ward wasn't all cakes and ale, either, he said. "At best, Ward is charming and likable, but he's so political, it's bad for Amherst. And it's going to cost the taxpayers. Ward came of age politically in the sick place of politics, the County Legislature, where he was a member."
So, with longtime Town Clerk John R. Shearer retiring Sept. 30, Kindel set his sights on that job -- first to fill the vacancy, then to run for a four-year term next November.
Shearer left with his financial records subpoenaed by the Internal Revenue Service and a suspicion that he made a lot more money than he said he did.
On his first day on the job, Kindel directed that revenues from the sale of vital statistics would go into the town treasury. He also directed that town clerk funds be placed in interest-bearing bank accounts.
And with that, Kindel added a new line under his name on the front door of the office: "Welcome to the finest town clerk's office in the United States." As interim clerk, Kindel says, the public can expect a new litany of reforms, including the computerization of records and, he hopes, opening his office on Saturdays to serve the public.
Kindel, the town's elected GOP chairman for five years before being elected to the Town Board for nine years, senses -- probably correctly -- that the star to which he will hitch his wagon is the town's growing green machine and its opposition to all-out development whatever the assessment gain.
Holder of awards from the Sierra, Audubon and Adirondack Mountain clubs, Kindel perceives -- also probably correctly -- that a new Amherst may be out there, just waiting for the right Republican, with his impeccable green connections, to put the brakes on the bulldozers and the developers.
As a conservationist, "not as town clerk," he says, he will make it his business to come to grips with the town's growing deer population, maintaining it by enlightened management that would allow environmentalists' green to live with the Republican's great blue machine.
Last year, herded into unlikely quarters, such as citizens' back yards, by massive development, 300 deer were killed in the town by cars -- 24 alone on the short stretch of Hopkins Road between Dodge and Klein Roads.
Although he professes to keep his options open, Kindel remains blatantly mysterious.
On one hand, he says, he is the non-candidate for supervisor. And he is the announced candidate for a four-year term as clerk in 1991. And perhaps beyond.
"My ambition is to be here in one capacity or another into the next century," he said.
In politics, that's a long time. But for all of that, Bill Kindel just may be the Amherst politician for all ages and seasons. He wore a brush cut when it was popular, when it wasn't and even today, when it's back in style.