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Amherst supervisor race will pit town clerk vs. Williamsville mayor

Voters in November may have to choose between two Williamsville neighbors in electing the next supervisor of Amherst.

Town Clerk Marjory Jaeger announced her bid for supervisor Tuesday on the steps of Amherst Town Hall. Jaeger, a registered Conservative, is expected to seek her party's endorsement as well as that of the Republicans.

Williamsville Mayor Brian J. Kulpa announced his candidacy in January and on Monday received the unanimous backing of the town's Democratic Committee.

Jaeger pointed to her experience from 5½ years as clerk as her chief qualification.

"I've been a part of every minute or resolution that's gone through," she told The Buffalo News. "There's nobody else that has the experience of what happens in the town that I do. Clerk's office is the pulse of the town. I'm able to recognize issues residents have."

Kulpa also is pointing to his experience.

"I'm looking to embark and take some of that knowledge that we've gained in the Village of Williamsville and bring it forward into the town ranks -- grow some of those same policies, those same visions," said Kulpa, an architect and urban planner with Buffalo firm Clark Patterson Lee.

Both candidates are expected to run unopposed for their party's nomination in September's primary, setting up a potential general election showdown in seven months.

Democrats have the edge in town party enrollment figures. Of 79,409 registered voters in the town, 41 percent are Democrats and 33 percent are Republicans, according to the latest number from the Erie County Board of Elections. Two percent of the voters are enrolled Conservatives. The rest are members of other minor parties or unaffiliated.

The last two town supervisors -- Satish Mohan and Barry A. Weinstein -- were both elected as Republicans. Weinstein is barred by term limits from seeking a third term, although he is exploring a run for a council seat.

"I know what it's like to walk this town," said Jaeger. "I've been in the districts. I've gone door to door."

A lifelong town resident and graduate of the Amherst Central School District, Jaeger is a volunteer board of directors member of Amherst’s Meals on Wheels and a volunteer firefighter in the Williamsville Fire Department.

"The biggest challenge in a town the size of Amherst is to get the word out -- 'I'm running for office and here is my platform,'" she said.

Kulpa, meanwhile, holds bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture and urban planning from the University at Buffalo. He has served as mayor of the 1-square-mile village for the last 5½ years and a village trustee for four years before that.

Both candidates point to a nationwide trend away from large office parks and big box retail stores as the main challenge the town faces. Weinstein sounded the alarm about this in January at his final State of the Town address.

"Younger people entering the work force are looking for more vibrant, urban, and walkable environments," Weinstein said then. "Our large office parks are less attractive to them and vacancies are popping up there and in older, isolated office buildings.

"I fear for my successor," he added.

The two candidates are not unfamiliar to each other. Kulpa's office in Village Hall is just several paces west on Main Street from Jaeger's in Town Hall. They're also neighbors.

"We live a block and a half away from each other," said Jaeger. "He's the mayor of Williamsville, good for him. I'll just leave it at that."

Kulpa was similarly ambivalent about his presumptive opponent as the countdown to Election Day begins, saying he preferred to focus on his credentials.

"I have nothing negative to say about her," he said. "She's a neighbor of mine. I've known her for a long time and I think she's dedicated."

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