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Bieber celebrating birthday as she takes helm in Royalton; Is first woman to be supervisor

Jan. 1 is a big day for seventh-generation Royalton resident Jennifer H. Bieber because it's the first day of the new year and -- because it's her birthday -- the first day of her new year.

This year, she has a third reason to celebrate: Later today, she will take office as the first female supervisor in the Town of Royalton on her 42nd birthday.

Bieber served as deputy supervisor for three of her four years on the Town Board under retiring Supervisor Richard J. Lang and ran unopposed in November with backing from the Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Independence parties.

"I am so excited about this adventure," she said of her new post. "Dick did a great job these past four years, and I'd like to continue on that route."

With a population of 7,660, Royalton is far from the most-populous community in Niagara County, but it is the largest by area, with 91 miles of roads to maintain, Bieber said.

"We have to keep taxes down," she added. "We did override the New York State 2 percent cap, but we were not over it, anyway."

Bieber sees her biggest challenge as supervisor as meeting state mandates for the town's contributions to employees' retirement funds, health and workers' compensation insurance.

"You have New York State telling you that you have to do this and you have to do that, but they won't fund it," she said.

"But our Town Board has already set up some funds for the rising costs of retirement," she added. "We have some reserve funds to help offset some of the costs, if two employees were to retire in the same year, for example."

Bieber said the board is working with a grant writer and looking at archival grants in order to start codifying town records.

Bieber appreciates the value of securing town records. She's married to Town Historian Jesse Bieber, appointed in 2006. The couple operates a small dairy farm, something the new supervisor was well-acquainted with, having grown up on a dairy farm.

Bieber has worked for the past 21 years for Verizon Communications and serves as a facility assistant at its North Tonawanda site.

"People ask me how I'm going to work full time and be supervisor, but my motto is, 'If you want something done, ask a busy woman,' " she said. "It's all about organization. We have great employees at Town Hall and a great office staff."

Bieber was diagnosed with a noncancerous brain tumor in 2009, from which she said she has totally recovered without residual side effects. She had surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute -- and has twice ridden in Ride for Roswell to help raise money for the hospital.

She also serves on the Cornell Cooperative Extension's board of directors and is involved with the Farm Bureau and 4-H clubs.

"Jennifer is a hard-working, energetic person," said Councilman Bradley Rehwaldt. "She has an overall knowledge of the operations of the town from one end to the other.

"We all have our opinions, and sometimes we agree to disagree, but Jennifer always has the best interest of the town at heart," he said. "She's a team player."

Rehwaldt said he would like to see better communication between the board and the supervisor's office.

"We all work during the day and can't be at Town Hall all of the time, so we need better communication, and I'm very confident Jennifer will do that," he said.

Bieber's Town Board seat will be occupied by Lee Criswell, who was elected in November. In an odd twist, Bieber replaced Criswell four years ago when he declined to run for re-election.

In October, Royalton installed four 120-foot-high wind towers, each capable of producing 10 kilowatts of energy, at Town Hall and the Highway Department building. While the project cost $300,000, federal stimulus funds reduced the town's share to $400.

While Bieber is glad to see the town using green energy, she had hoped for a broader grant.

"But that's the nature of these grants," she said. "If we could have used that grant money on anything, I would have liked to use it on the wastewater treatment plant. But it was only offered for wind energy, so we did it, and they're awesome. We recouped the $400 cost to the town for the entire project with our very first electric bill."