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Incumbents Marlette, Manna run strong, well-financed campaigns

Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Amherst Town Board, though the two incumbent council members are waging strong and well financed campaigns that could make them difficult to beat in the upcoming election.

Both Republican Council Member Guy R. Marlette and Democratic Council Member Mark A. Manna are running for re-election to second terms after being first elected to their seats in 2007.

They both have strong name recognition and have served on a board that has seen taxes hold steady or decline since 2007. Both also have raised considerable money in their campaign for another term.

They are facing off against challengers Republican Richard A. Wojtowicz, a mortgage brokerage administrator, and Joanne A. Schultz, a lawyer and an Independence Party member who has Democratic backing.

Marlette, 53, is the town's deputy supervisor and serves as vice president and co-owner of a Buffalo-based technology company, Alternative Information Systems.

Considered a leader of the board, he also has raised the most campaign money to date by far -- more than $50,000 this year alone -- with heavy contributions from businesses and developers. Some of that money has been redistributed in the form of donations to various town organizations.

Marlette has promoted and worked actively on "zero growth" town budgeting, he said, and counts the consolidation of the new Youth and Recreation Department and redevelopment of older parts of town among his key accomplishments.

If re-elected, he said, he will continue to work on controlling town spending, reducing the size and cost of government, maintaining services, and redeveloping business and residential areas.

"My philosophy has always been to bring business principles to the management of government," he said. "I think that's the key."

Marlette is endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties, as well as the Good Government Club.

Manna, 46, is an administrator and pension trustee for the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The sole Democrat on the board, he is a traditional backer of neighborhood interests.

"I've been the watchdog when I had to be," he said, "but I still have a very good working relationship with the other board members."

He has raised about $27,000 so far for this campaign, he said, and anticipates raising about $30,000 overall, with major itemized sums to date coming from unions and developers.

Manna counts among his board accomplishments his work to substantially reduce town health care costs; streamlining the pension program for volunteer firefighters; and organizing a "Redevelopment Summit" to foster redevelopment.

He said his top priorities moving forward include decreasing taxes, keeping Amherst as one of the safest towns in America and "rightsizing" the town work force without sacrificing services.

Manna is endorsed by the Democratic, Conservative and Working Families parties, the Amherst Police Club, the Good Government Club of Western New York and the Buffalo AFL-CIO.

Challenger Wojtowicz, 56, was a one-term council member from 2000-2004, currently serves as the executive director of corporate relations for the Mainstream Funding Network mortgage brokerage.

He technically won a seat on the board in last year's election, but that seat was abolished after voters voted to downsize the board.

Wojtowicz is endorsed by the Republican and Independence parties and has raised about $15,000 to date for the campaign, he said.

He has emphasized his involvement as a civic leader over the years with various town and village organizations, as well as the Amherst South Rotary Club. His platform promotes government efficiency and tax stabilization, redevelopment and grant acquisition.

He said his financial background and commitment to youth and seniors through volunteer work set him apart.

"The name recognition is there," he said. "The commitment to this town for years and years is 100 percent."

Independence Party challenger Schultz, 53, is a lawyer with a solo practice focusing primarily on investor representation against the financial industry and consumer bankruptcy. She earned her law degree from the University at Buffalo Law School.

A relative newcomer to campaigning, Schultz has not filed any campaign finance reports to date and said she has raised a "negligible" amount of money.

She said the board could use more political and gender diversity and advocates greater resident participation, improvement in town services, and a more "balanced approach" to decision-making on the board.

"I don't see as much disclosure and debate going as there out to be," she said.

Schultz is endorsed by the Independence, Democratic and Working Families parties.