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A primer on Amherst Town Board candidates

Amherst voters will choose two new council members from among five candidates on Election Day.

They will replace Deputy Supervisor Steven D. Sanders, who is barred from running for re-election because of term limits, and Ramona D. Popowich, who decided not to seek a second term.

Here's a primer on the candidates based on their responses to a questionnaire:

Erin K. Baker

Baker, 33, is a Canisius College graduate and chief of staff for Assemblyman Ray Walter. She is on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform party ballot lines.

The biggest issues facing the town, she said, are the burden of high property taxes, traffic due to increased development, the quality of services the town provides to its residents and the overall safety in each neighborhood. Her top campaign platform agendas are to hold the line on taxes while working with each town department to not just maintain, but improve, services for residents.

"It is important to balance the growth of our tax base while protecting against over-development," she said.

Baker also identified a townwide traffic study and working closely with the Amherst Police Department and emergency services personnel to maintain the safety and security of residents as key priorities.

Baker's campaign raised $89,276, far more than other candidates, including contributions from prominent local and state Republicans. She reported $37,097 on hand in the days leading up to Election Day. Her largest contribution was $1,620 from attorney Jeffrey Bochiechio, according to the state Board of Elections.

Jacqualine G. Berger

Berger, 61, has a master's degree in early childhood and special education and is on the faculty at Empire State College. She is on the Democratic, Green, Working Families and Women's Equality party ballot lines.

She's also a member of the Amherst Youth Board and president of Niagara Frontier Challenger Little League, a league for children and adults with disabilities.

A political newcomer and town resident for 30 years, Berger identified the biggest issues affecting the town as a need for responsible development; protecting green space; infrastructure and traffic; making town government open and transparent; and addiction.

"I am an educator and have spent my life working with people facing challenges," she said. "I effectively advocate for children and people with disabilities and fight for social justice."

Berger's campaign reported raising $14,177, with her largest contributions coming from labor unions, and having $2,338 on hand.

William L. Kindel

Kindel, 84, is a familiar name in Amherst politics, having served on the Town Board for 20 years between 1980 and 2000.

A town resident of 55 years and 1956 UB graduate, Kindel proudly notes he conserved 3,000 acres of open space from development and attended 500 Town Board meetings during his terms on the board.

"I wish to continue to serve the residents of Amherst in a fair and intelligent manner," Kindel said.

He is the town Conservative party chairman and appears on that party's line.

Kindel said his priorities are saving green space, making the former Westwood Country Club into a park and rolling back the Town Board's salary increases approved in 2016. He said he wants to "replace present GOP political control and influence over town planning and development decisions" and appoint homeowners to the Amherst IDA and Planning Board.

Kindel's campaign has failed to file the latest required finance reports with the state Board of Elections. He self-reported raising $3,200 and spending it all before Election Day.

Shawn A. Lavin

Lavin, 36, holds a bachelor's degree from SUNY Buffalo State and a master's in public administration from SUNY Brockport. He serves as a lieutenant in the Air National Guard 107th Attack Wing, where he supervises a team that responds to national calamities alongside the Homeland Emergency Response Force.

He works as a senior special investigator for the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, where he has audited $1.3 million in Medicaid claims.

An Amherst resident for two years, Lavin ran unsuccessfully for the Town Council in Greece, outside Rochester, in 2009. He is on the Democratic, Green, Working Families and Women's Equality party ballot lines.

He listed the top issues in the town as development of green space, aging infrastructure and keeping an open and transparent government.

"Amherst residents have continually voiced their concern regarding development in our town and having representation in their local government, and it is those concerns that I will make a priority if elected," he said.

Lavin's campaign reported raising $12,146, including contributions from many prominent local Democrats, and having $1,072 on hand.

Joseph A. Spino Jr.

Spino, 40, holds a master's degree in business administration from St. Bonaventure University and is a town resident of 23 years.

A political newcomer, he is special projects coordinator for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, where he works in administration and project management as well as grant writing and grant management. He is chairman of the Greater Buffalo Friends of Music, a small nonprofit promoting classical music and music education, and a tenor with the St. Joseph's Cathedral Choir.

He is on the Republican, Independence and Reform party ballot lines.

The biggest issues facing Amherst are taxes, development and traffic, he said. He listed his top campaign platform agendas as redevelopment of aging retail areas and business parks, a townwide comprehensive traffic study and review of town spending to identify potential areas of cost savings to make sure taxpayer money is being spent wisely.

"As an owner of a small family business I know what it takes to live within a budget and to make hard financial decisions," said Spino, previous owner with his father of a small office supply company.

Spino’s campaign reported $22,777 in contributions, with his largest an in-kind contribution of $2,444 from a Depew restaurant where he held his first fundraiser, and having $6,967 on hand.

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