WILSON – It must be something in the water.
How else to explain that both candidates for Niagara County clerk – Democrat Jamie Moxham and Republican Joseph A. Jastrzemski – live in Wilson?
Both candidates have been highly active in the community – Jastrzemski as town supervisor for the past 10 years, Moxham as town Democratic Party chairwoman for the past six years.
Moxham and her husband, Walter E. Moxham Jr., an attorney who practices in Lockport, have established Wilson Community Enhancement Charity, which focuses on Wilson causes. It helped raise money to build a swimming pool for the Wilson School District.
“We give 250 children free swim lessons every summer,” Jamie Moxham said. “We’ve been doing that since 1999. We’ve put on movies, we’ve put on cultural events. We’ve done Harborfest, Taste of Summer, Haunted Harbor, the Harbor Hoop three-on-three basketball tournament.”
Jastrzemski, 60, has worked for the last 19 years as coordinator of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office work program, which takes convicted criminals ordered into the program by judges to job sites around the county for public service work. He had the program “adopt” six highways around the county for roadside cleanup. He also is a member of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.
Moxham, 57, also has worked as an auditor for a brokerage firm, and then as company controller for an advertising agency, where she said she cut the check for the Buffalo Bills to acquire the rights to the “Shout!” song still played after every score. For the last 20 years she has been office manager for her husband’s law firm. She also was the owner and operator of the Wilson Boathouse for two years.
She said she also led the fundraising for the Johnson family of Wilson after their home exploded because of a propane leak in 2012 and found a new home for them.
Moxham has never run for elective office before, although she has worked on many Democratic campaigns in recent years. She took credit for electing Democrats Bernie J. Leiker and Patrick D. Kelahan as mayors of the Village of Wilson, believed to be the only Democratic mayors in Wilson history.
Jastrzemski was a Democrat once, too. He served briefly as a county legislator when he was appointed to a vacancy caused by Curtis S. Hopkins’ death in 1994, but he was defeated in the election that fall by Republican Shirley G. Urtel. After some time in the Independence Party, Jastrzemski became a Republican in 2006.
That was the same year he took office as supervisor, succeeding Jerry L. Dean, a Republican who ran with Democratic backing and served six tumultuous years, leaving office under a cloud of fiscal problems.
Jastrzemski said, “That town was fiscally broke. It was so dysfunctional it was unbelievable. And it was her (Moxham’s) candidate, her supervisor, the one that they backed, who was in office for the six years that put them there. That’s why I ran for supervisor, and I pulled that town out of the funk it was in and put them back into a strong fiscally sound town, and I did it without raising taxes. I did it by lowering taxes through good solid government.”
Other than the fiscal turnaround, Jastrzemski said his proudest accomplishment as supervisor was getting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Wilson Harbor. “It took me my whole term, it took me nine years to do it, but I was able to do it,” he said, adding that the experience shows he can work successfully with higher levels of government.
Moxham said she was approached by some Democratic county legislators to run for clerk. “They made me realize I have some unique qualifications for the position,” she said. “Why should a politician be getting this job? I have dealt with every document. I have managed millions of dollars. I was the proprietor of the Wilson Boathouse for two years and I had 106 employees. I just thought it’s time to open up a new door and put someone in office who knows what they’re doing.”
Moxham denounced “politicians who learn on the job and get pensions and all sorts of financing. We can’t afford it anymore … I don’t know that Joe has any of the experience I have. I know I’m offering the people a qualified candidate.”
Jastrzemski said, “I’ve heard that out of her before, that I’m running to pad my pension. There’s nothing so ludicrous in all the world as to hear that come out of someone’s mouth. I’ve been a public servant for 19 years at the sheriff’s department. My record speaks for itself, and I’ve been serving the taxpayers of Wilson for 10 years, and my record speaks for itself there.”
The Clerk’s Office operates three Department of Motor Vehicles locations, in Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda. All stay open until 6:30 p.m. one night a week. Moxham proposed offering Saturday hours, and Jastrzemski said he wouldn’t object if a deal could made with the Civil Service Employees Association so no overtime is paid.
Both candidates said something needs to be done to increase revenue from renewals of vehicle registrations. The county gets 12.7 percent of the registration fee, but only if the renewal is processed in Niagara County. If the vehicle owner mails the check to the state office or renews online, the county gets nothing.
Jastrzemski hailed the County Legislature’s vote last week asking Albany to increase the county share, unchanged since 1999, to 25 percent.
Moxham proposed making postage-paid green envelopes available at numerous locations around the county to encourage people to mail their renewals to the county.
Both candidates also spoke strongly in favor of expanding free offers for veterans, begun by the incumbent clerk, Republican Wayne F. Jagow of Lockport, who is stepping down after 20 years in office. His salary is $92,844 a year, but the new clerk’s pay will be set by the county Legislature in December.
The only other countywide office on the ballot is district attorney, for which Niagara Falls Republican Michael J. Violante, 70, is unopposed for the third consecutive term.