By Rich Place
For Clyde Drake, being involved in a government body is nothing new.
He served on the Springville-Griffith Institute School Board of Education for 10 years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including seven years as president. He also served for a term on the Concord Town Board before being elected supervisor.
Any given weekday, he’s now likely sitting at the supervisor’s desk on the second floor of the town hall on Franklin Street. And as far as that seat is concerned, he’s a relatively new face — previous supervisor Gary Eppolito held the position since 2005.
“Since the election, I checked in with him every day just to see what was going on,” Drake said during a recent interview from his office. “In December, I was down there half days. Gary took me to some of the meetings with him.”
Last week, Drake ran his first town board gathering as supervisor during its reorganizational meeting on Thursday, Jan. 4. And reflecting on it with an eye to the future, Drake said it’s a clean slate for everyone involved, from board members to town employees to local residents.
“We’ve got such a great board here and I really think we can make a difference,” he said. “It’s a new beginning for everybody.”
Primarily, most discussions about Drake’s immediate goals as supervisor centered around his desire to keep the town involved in various organizations. That means having town officials attend meetings like those held by the Springville Area Chamber of Commerce, for example, as well as other groups.
“The door is open and I’ll listen to the people,” he said. “We are not always going to agree with them, but we are always going to be listening.”
Drake said his desire to serve on the town board came from a request by Debbie King, who served as vice president of the school board under Drake, and also served on the town board. He won election in 2013 and served as a councilman from 2014 to 2017.
Last year, after much contemplation, he decided to run for supervisor.
“It was tough because I had been retired, we had done some traveling and for the next four years, we are pretty much committed to staying here and fighting the battles,” Drake said.
As far as the job itself is concerned, he discussed the challenge of keeping taxes relatively low while still maintaining funds for town operations and infrastructure. Among those at the top of the list is finding a solution to the aging sewer plant at Craneridge, which he said is over 50 years old.
“We will be trying to look for some grant money to try and somehow update that,” he said, noting there is also a sewer plant in the Kissing Bridge area. “I don’t know if it’ll be combining the two of them but, with something that’s 50 years old, you’ve got to sort of start taking a look.”
He also hopes he and the board will address the deteriorating snack shack at Community Park.
“It’s a lot of things that we’ve got our eyes on but it all comes down to dollars and cents,” he said. “We’ve been getting elected all these years by keeping taxes low. The downside of that is you’ve got to make sure you’ve got some money put away for these big things if they were to come up.”
Drake worked as an accountant for General Motors in Buffalo from 1972 to 1993 and for American Axle from 1993 to 2006. He retired but ended up working for Carleton Technologies of Orchard Park until 2013.
Now he’s bringing his experience as an accountant — including his master’s of business administration degree from University at Buffalo — to the town supervisor’s position.
“I’m going to be looking at doing five-year budgets. I did them in the industry for years,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you I have all the answers just sitting here today, but I want to get more into the accounting side of it because that’s what my strength is — to see how we can accomplish this stuff.”
Drake also hopes the town and village can find some “common ground” to better work together. He said he’s also been talking with town employees to address any concerns they might have.
“Everybody has got a clean slate and we are just going to try and solve as many problems as we can,” he said.