Walter L. Rooth III said he was a little hesitant when Democrats asked him to run for Hamburg town supervisor this year.
“It’s in the paper an awful lot, it has been for a couple years, and it makes the rest of Hamburg look bad,” he said of the Town Board.
The perception of a dysfunctional Town Board is one Supervisor Steven J. Walters has heard before, but the two-term incumbent is having none of it. He’s convinced his record of providing services while lowering spending will trump any concerns about how the Town Board operates.
“Anytime there’s negative press in a community, it negatively affects you,” Walters said. “I have a job to do, and that job is getting done, it’s getting done how it’s supposed to, and you’re seeing results.”
Rooth, 46, said he decided to jump into the race after talking it over with his family and friends, who were enthusiastic about his chances. He thinks he will be the person who can “restore civility” to the board.
“I would include all the Town Board members as much as I can,” Rooth said. “To not do that, you’re basically running a one- or two-person show, and you’re controlling the whole town as opposed to three, which is what we’re supposed to have.”
Walters was a young attorney of 30 when he challenged and beat incumbent Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak eight years ago. During the campaign they clashed over the Police Department, administrative pay and taxes. And while the first budget he proposed would have raised taxes nearly 8 percent, most of Walters’ budgets since then have stabilized or lowered taxes. Taxes did increase slightly the past two years, but will go down next year.
The 2014 budget spends less than in 2007, and reduces the tax rate by about 1.5 percent and the levy by a half percent.
“Since I’ve taken office, we have not cut one single senior program, we have not cut one single youth program, in fact, we’ve expanded those programs,” Walters said.
He points to cost-saving measures such as combining the Youth, Recreation and Senior Services departments into one, a single heath insurance carrier, and realignment in the Police Department.
Walters also said he is proud of the town takeover of operations at Woodlawn Beach State Park.
“The town kept open a piece of our waterfront that the state was prepared to close and cut off access to,” he said. “The people have responded by coming in droves to the beach. We’ve increased attendance every year.”
Rooth points out that the town has spent more money at the beach than it has taken in the last three years, and he would like to approach New York State.
“New York State took over Gallagher Beach, which is a mile and a half, two miles down the road,” Rooth said. “It would seem to make sense to talk to New York State about entering some sort of partnership with them and running the beach jointly or talking to them about taking it back.”
The town takeover has been criticized by some because the town is spending town resources on what could be viewed as a regional asset. Walters said there are very few recreational assets that are limited to town residents, and attracting non-town residents means they are helping to pay for the park.
“You want people to come to your town, you need people to come to your town,” he said.
Rooth, whose father is town Justice Walter L. Rooth, was an Erie County assistant district attorney for 10 years, and established his own law practice in 2006. He is a volunteer basketball and baseball coach, and was an EMT in the Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department before entering law school. He said he would be a full-time supervisor, and continue his law practice on a part-time basis.