By Kellen M. Quigley
Residents of the village of Springville will have the opportunity next week to cast ballots for three village trustees as part of general village elections throughout New York state.
Elections will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 at the Village Municipal Building at 65 Franklin St.
Three seats on the village board are open, two for four years and one for two years. Terms will be decided by number of votes received
Incumbent trustee Nils Wikman and former trustee Terry Skelton are running as members of the For Springville independent party. Reed Braman and Devin Kowalske are running together as members of the Revitalize Springville party.
The incumbent trustee is hoping to continue serving on the village board, saying local governments are best positioned to help their communities. With Springville’s non-partisan board that works together, Wikman said they can adequately plan for the future.
“I feel that my 20 years of business experience in the private sector and my eight years on the board has positioned me to be able to be an effective voice for our village,” he said. “I want to take advantage of the knowledge that I have gained in the last eight years and apply it towards even better decision making skills in the future.”
During his latest term on the board, Wikman cited the improvements on Franklin Street including the new fire hall, the streetscape improvements and the completion of Heritage Park as examples of the board’s dedication to moving the village forward.
“The transformation of that corridor is a huge change for the village,” he said. “Whether it be Fiddlefest, a concert in the park or simply walking in a pedestrian-friendly area eating an ice cream cone from the Springville Dairy, this area represents a vision for the future for our village.”
Wikman also said the village has a talented group of people working hard behind the scenes with public works, fire department and police force to maintain the village services.
Looking ahead, Wikman said he wants to focus on bringing more job opportunities to the village, saying it could create new housing opportunities and help to expand Springville’s tax base. He said he also wants to see some ongoing projects continue, including the Rails to Trails, and improving those features that improve the quality of life for our residents.
“For example, we are working towards improvements to the spray park facility and tennis courts at Eaton Street and North Central Avenue that will improve the overall complex,” he said. “We are also continuing our work in the DPW to further improve our infrastructure. I want to make sure that this focus is not lost.”
One key area Wikman said he’s researched is the expansion of high-speed internet access to rural areas, which could also mean affordability. He said current rates are out of reach for many residents and rising, but the county and Tom Golisano are exploring options for the area.
“I would like to explore these possibilities as a way to increase competition for our only ‘real’ high-speed provider as a way to truly increase access for our residents,” he added.
Within the village, Wikman said improvements to the parks, such as the skateplex at Heritage Park, the Easton Street spray park and pickle ball court are also on his to-do list. “These are the types of projects that really depend on citizen involvement to insure that the projects end up meeting their needs,” he said.
Wikman also mentioned the ongoing problem with the pedestrian crosswalks throughout the village, noting Route 39 traffic flowing through the Main Street business district posing a particularly dangerous problem.
“As you may know, Main Street is scheduled to be paved this year,” he explained. “We have been working with the state already to come up with solutions that will help make our crosswalks safer.”
Wikman has served on the board for the past eight years, but he feels that with re-election, he can contribute in a meaningful way, encouraging residents to contact him with questions or concerns.
“I want the village of Springville to be a place that you can be proud of, but to do that, we need your input as well,” he added. “So ask questions, weigh the answers, and vote for those individuals that will work for your best interests.”
The village of Springville has always been an integral part of Terry Skelton’s life, being born here and raising his family here, with two of his children starting their families here as well.
“I’m hoping my third child will catch on to our great secret and move his family here also,” he said. “Other than a brief stint as a child and my first year of marriage, I have been a life-long resident of Springville.”
Skelton said he remembers as a child going with his grandmother as she did her shopping downtown. He said she seemed to know everyone and everyone knew her.
“That feeling of being surrounded by friends and not strangers stuck with me,” he reflected. “Our culture of a rural village is something that needs to be cherished, protected and preserved. I have travelled all over the world and I have never found any place as inviting and friendly as Springville.”
Skelton was a part of the village government for over 12 years, spending 10 years as a trustee with three of those years as deputy mayor. He has also been a member of the Village Board of Appeals and is currently a member of the Village Planning Board.
In addition to his village duties, Skelton is a member of the Springville Youth Inc. Board of Directors, served on this organization for over 25 years with three terms as president.
“All of this experience has taught me how to be part of a successful board. It’s taught me how to listen to opposing views and effectively work to an agreement for the better good,” he said. “It’s taught me how to collaborate with everyone, from the resident walking down the sidewalk to county and state officials. It’s also taught me how to make decisions based not on my personal views, but for the benefit of our entire village.”
Skelton said he is very proud of the fiscally responsible budgets that he has worked on over the years to keep tax increases to a minimum while continuing to provide the quality services that Springville’s residents depend on. With all the state and county mandates, he said there is only a small amount of discretionary spending available in village budgets.
“It requires discipline, understanding the workings of our village and the ability to make tough decisions to keep the budget on track and continue to make improvements that benefit our village residents,” he explained. “I believe I have those traits.”
This time around, Skelton said he is hoping to continue the fiscal responsibility and protection of the taxpayers’ dollars in all aspects of the village government.
“I hope to return my experience and leadership to the village board and work effectively with the great men and women within our government to continue to improve village life,” he added. “I know it’s over-used, but I really, honestly love this village.”
I trumpet our virtues to anyone I can get to listen to me. It would be my honor to return to the Board of Trustees.
Terry Skelton lives with his wife and two grandchildren on Woodward Ave. He has worked at Moog in East Aurora for over 38 years and is currently a Global IT Manager in its corporate division.
With both sides of her family calling Springville home for generations, Devin Kowalske says she is deeply invested in her hometown. She has been increasingly involved in the community lately through Green Springville and the arts center, and said she has had many rewarding experiences.
“My daughter will grow up here, and I want a hand in making it the absolute best place it can be,” she said. “I’m ready to take that next step and become more formally involved with the bright future of our village. Springville is clearly on the rise.”
Kowalske said the past decade has seen some wonderful developments for Springville, with some real momentum that needs to be sustained.
“There is currently no one on the village board with a young family, and I think that perspective is very important,” she added.
Monday through Friday you can find Kowalske at Curbell Plastics in Orchard Park, where she is the Material Data Specialist. She said she works every day with cross-functional teams, manages long-term projects and contributes to the success of one of the nation’s premier plastic distributors.
“I know how to build a sense of team. I am attentive to detail and I take my responsibilities seriously,” she explained. “I’ve just recently completed a community leadership program with (University of Buffalo) and am an active board member of Green Springville.”
In addition to being a board member for Green Springville, Kowalske said she is a committee member for the WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable, an organizing lead for Springville’s annual Earth Day annual celebration, a UB Champions for Change program graduate, recipient of the Curbell Values in Action Award and an Eagle Award recipient at Curbell Plastics.
Kowalske said she is committed to listening to and engaging with residents throughout the village to best understand what their priorities and concerns are.
“I want to be a part of making Springville a place where people want to come to shop and play — whether to bike the rail trail or see a concert — and a place that is known as a vibrant and affordable place to live.”
Some specific areas Kowalske said she is focused on include protecting and preserving the village’s historic assets and making Springville great for all ages, saying, “from our youngest residents to our oldest, we need safe and engaging opportunities for recreation, learning and community building.”
Kowalske said she also wants to show support for and investment in the business district for a vibrant downtown and continue exploring green initiatives, from lowering energy costs and consumption to downtown recycling, community composting and green infrastructure projects.
If elected, Kowalske said she intends to bring renewed energy to the board with a steady push forward, respectfully collaborating with other board members and community stakeholders.
“I will listen to everyone,” she said. “I believe that we can work together to bring more positive attention to Springville and to make this community an even better one to live in for residents of all ages. … I hope that you will give me the opportunity to do my best to give back to the community that raised me and to help see to it that Springville continues to flourish.”
Devin Kowalske lives on Park Street with her husband, Josh White, and daughter, Lillian. She lived in Springville until 3rd grade, but then moved back after graduating college.
Growing up in the village of Springville, Reed Braman got used to the small-town lifestyle. Walking or biking anywhere he wanted, he had access to a variety of activities such as youth sports, music and arts programs and appreciating nature, whether at a local park or his friends’ backyards.
As an adult with two young children, Braman said he rediscovered all that Springville had to offer while visiting the same local areas he frequented in his youth.
“One day it dawned on me that this way of life was no accident and that members of the community donated their time and money to make this happen,” he said. “At that point I decided that I wanted to contribute what I could, and running for village trustee is the latest way I’ve found to give back to the community.”
Currently working in Erie County’s DPW, Braman said he’s gained experience in how municipal governments operate, working on numerous capital projects, familiarizing himself with the procurement processes specified in the state law and is an NYS Certified Code Enforcement Officer.
“While much of this tends to be day-to-day operations handled by the village administration, having this experience will help guide the decision making as well as provide additional assistance where required,” he explained.
In addition to government experience, Braman is president of Green Springville. As a newer organization with a limited budget, he said it requires creativity and careful budgeting to provide programming.
“It has also provided experience developing relationships with local governments and organizations as well as conducting community outreach,” he said.
Over the past few years, Braman said his work with Green Springville has led to collaborations with the towns of Concord, Colden, Evans, Eden and Sardinia to promote the Solarize Southtowns campaign, resulting in 34 households collectively making an $880,000 investment in clean energy all while lowering their electric bills. Green Springville also assisted the school district when building its new P-Tech building.
“Green Springville helped the school navigate the design and bidding of a green roof for the P-Tech gymnasium that would meet their stormwater mitigation goals, save energy and extend the lifespan of the roof,” he said.
Most recently, Braman said Green Springville has partnered with Springville Field and Stream to tackle the erosion that’s occurred over the past several years at Springville Trout Pond.
“A passion of mine is energy,” he said. “Springville has the incredible fortune to be a Municipal Electric Utility, and because of that we benefit from very cheap electricity. I would like to work with the village administration to see what we can do to lower energy consumption throughout the village.”
Braman said he would also like to see a comprehensive tree program take inventory and provide a plan for the village and to see all levels of government working together to provide services efficiently, noting his connections with Erie County could help provide efficiency and coordination.
Having the perspective of someone with a young family, Braman said he hopes to bring new ideas and a new way of looking at things to the board. He said he’s eager to listen to all of the residents of the community and understand what their priorities are.
“In my experience, it takes a network and cooperation to achieve great things,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with extraordinary people to accomplish all that I have and I am looking forward to working with fellow village officials to help move Springville forward.”
Reed Braman is a 1999 Springville-Griffith Institute graduate and is currently the Director of Energy for Erie County. He is married to Lisa Clark and they have two children, Rhett and Anderson.