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Seasoned candidates square off in Cambria

Longtime Supervisor Wright H. Ellis has garnered the support of the Republican and Democratic parties as he faces a challenge from former Niagara County Legislator Shirley E. Gregory Urtel for the town's top job.

Ellis defeated Urtel in the September Republican primary and also has the Working Families line. Urtel is backed by the Independence and Conservative parties.

Ellis is finishing his 16th year as supervisor. Retired as a captain after 26 years in the U.S. Navy, the 67-year-old operates Ellis Fruit Farm with his brother, Charles, and lives on Lower Mountain Road. He has a master's degree in international relations.

"Our biggest challenge is working within our revenues and the sources of income available to town government and providing the services required by the citizens," he said. "It's trying to strike a balance."

In the time he has served as supervisor, the town has updated all of its land use policies to reflect what the community is about.

"I feel this protects our traditions and the rural lifestyle we value," Ellis said. "But we recognize we're a town in transition and this provides a foundation to meet the needs of the newer residents. We need to maintain a balance between the two."

Urtel, 61, is a former county legislator, having represented Cambria and Wilson from 1995 to 2002. She lives on her grandfather's farm on North Ridge Road.

She has a master's degree in education and served as assistant vice president and personnel officer for Empire of America before leaving banking to raise her family. She is currently a broker/associate with Realty USA, and has been in the real estate business for 21 years.

"From my real estate experience, I see Cambria becoming more populated because it's perfect for commuting," she said. "And with my education, business and political experience, it will help me mesh the needs of the new residents with the rights of the people already here.

"I know this will be an interesting, uphill fight, but I want to be a candidate of choice," she said. "I know a lot of people felt the current administration wasn't being receptive to their needs. I feel I owe them a choice."

Three candidates are vying for two open seats on the Town Board. Incumbents George J. Bush and Matthew P. Foe are backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties, while Joseph Ohol is the sole Democrat.

Bush, 70, has served on the Town Board for 17 years -- 16 of them as deputy supervisor. He retired as manager of engineering and maintenance for Washington Mills in Niagara Falls in 1998 and lives on Lower Mountain Road.

As head of the town's park planning committee, he is gratified to see the creation of the town's first park coming to fruition, but said he would like to "make sure the park is built so people can start using it without having to wait 20 years [for completion]."

Foe, a 54-year-old farmer and five-year veteran of the Town Board, retired this spring from Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester after 34 years. He was a wastewater treatment operator. He lives on Upper Mountain Road.

"I believe I can make a difference to the community with my industrial experience and I have good leadership and negotiating skills," he said.

Ohol, 61, operates the family dairy farm with his brother and sons -- a farm established by his parents in 1932. He also has served on the town's Zoning Board of Appeals for 25 years, the past 10 as chairman.

"This has been a one-party town since 1964," he said. "There has not been a Democrat elected to office since then, and I want residents to have a choice."

Elsewhere in town elections, incumbent Jon T. MacSwan will appear on the ballot unopposed as Superintendent of Highways and incumbent Amel S. Jowdy, Jr. is running unopposed for Town Justice. Both are backed by the Republican, Independence and Conservative parties, while Jowdy also has Democratic and Working Families support.

In the 14th District, covering Cambria, Wilson and a slice of Newfane, Legislator Kyle R. Andrews, a Wilson Democrat, is unopposed for re-election.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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