With two of Lancaster's four councilmanic seats up for grabs next week, the political makeup of the all-Democrat Town Board could be split -- or at least tempered -- after Jan. 1.
Incumbent Councilmen Mark A. Montour and Donald E. Kwak are being challenged by Republican Richard D. Zarbo and Lancaster Independence Party candidate Robert A. Heckl in the race for the two seats. James W. Brett Jr., another challenger, is endorsed by both the Republican and Independence parties.
In addition, the three-way race for Supervisor Robert H. Giza's position on the board -- he faces challenges from both the Republican and Independence parties -- creates further opportunities for opponents to drive a wedge into the board.
In next year's tentative town budget, salaries for council members are set at $13,085. Members of the council serve four-year terms.
Montour, 39, a Fieldstone Lane resident, is a Canisius College and University at Buffalo graduate, and currently works as an attorney with a Buffalo law firm. He has served on the Town Board since 1996, when he was appointed to fill the council seat of Robert H. Giza, who had been elected supervisor.
Montour said he is committed to pursuing regional cooperation if elected to a full term on the board. "We've been exercising a form of mini-regionalism with the villages of Depew and Lancaster," he said. "We're now investigating procedures of joining with other towns. What we're looking at right now is, how can we share services with Tonawanda? Or West Seneca? Or Hamburg?"
Kwak, 56, of Bloomfield Avenue, is a 16-year veteran of the Town Board. A graduate of the University at Buffalo with a master's degree in education, he is a teacher at John A. Sciole Elementary School.
Kwak, who advocates a tempered approach to regionalism, said his goal if re-elected is to make sure Lancaster looks to its own ends first. "My main concern is a balance between residential and commercial zoning," he said.
Zarbo, 43, a Stony Road resident and professional firefighter, is a self-proclaimed political newcomer. A U.S. Army veteran, Zarbo is campaigning on issues including lower taxes, more housing and services for the town's senior citizens, and better cooperation between the town and the Village of Lancaster.
Plans to revise the town's recycling program, so that recyclables are sold instead of picked up by a paid service, are a major part of his platform, Zarbo said.
Brett, 51, a resident of Harris Hill Road who owns and runs Transit-Cayuga Mobile Homes, previously served on the Planning Board and Town Council in Nicoma Park, Okla. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Brett said new faces are needed to break up an all-Democrat Town Board. "It's a political power base. It has nothing to do with representing the people any more," he said. "If the Democrats were going to do something, it should already have been done by now."
Heckl, a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, is founder and chairman of the Lancaster Independence Party. A lifelong town resident, he lives on Pavement Road.
Heckl was unavailable for comment.
In other town races:
Highway Superintendent. Democrat Carmen Zagarrio is battling Republican Richard Reese for the position left vacant by the recent retirement announcement of Virgil Paul, who held the job for 16 years. The position is salaried at $45,000 in next year's tentative town budget.
Zagarrio, 30, of Burwell Avenue, is vice president of Destro & Brothers Concrete and Paving Co. Reese, 45, of Werhle Drive, is employed by Omer Construction Co.
Receiver of Taxes. Incumbent Johanna M. Coleman is running unopposed for her fourth term as Receiver of Taxes, a post that will pay $40,145 if next year's tentative town budget is approved. Ms. Coleman is endorsed by the Democratic and Conservative Parties.
Town Justice. Incumbent J. Michael Kelleher is unopposed for the position of Town Justice, set to pay $28,319 in next year's tentative town budget. Kelleher has the Democratic, Conservative, and Right to Life endorsements.
Library Board. Elaine Kupp Wick and Ernest S. Okonski are running unopposed for two trustee spots on the town's Public Library Board. The seats carry six-year terms.