Rensselaerville hires Westerlo’s former building inspector

Edwin Lawson

HILLTOWNS — Edwin Lawson, who retired last month as Westerlo’s code-enforcement officer, was appointed to the same position in neighboring Rensselaerville at the town’s organizational meeting on Jan. 2, said town supervisor John Dolce. Lawson resigned as Westerlo’s code enforcer, a job he’d held for 23 years, as well as its zoning administrator and its deputy supervisor.

Dolce said that the general consensus of Rensselaerville’s town board was that it was best to appoint Lawson, one among several applicants, in order to not make a change to an already shaken-up town government. Lawson had been serving as the town’s interim code-enforcement officer after the previous officer, Mark Overbaugh, resigned.

Dolce was appointed town supervisor last month to replace Steve Pfleging who resigned after admitting to embezzling town funds in December, leading to a series of new appointments.

“Things are changing in Westerlo,” Lawson told The Enterprise, explaining why he left a job in Westerlo for a similar one nearby. He added that there is increased animosity in the town, particularly at meetings. In Rensselaerville, he will be “insulated” from most town issues, he said.

“I’m not involved with the higher echelons … ,” he said. “My role in Westerlo was much more complex.”

Lawson said some of his duties over the years in Westerlo included overseeing building maintenance and the town’s water district.

“After a while, you’re looked upon like you’re trying to take over, which you’re not trying to do at all,” he said.

Lawson, who is 74, has lived in Westerlo for 52 years. He was certified as a code enforcement officer in 1987 while working for New York State as a private manager overseeing construction projects, he said. He began working for the town in 1995, after the code enforcement officer at the time had health problems, he said.

Lawson subsequently was appointed to be the zoning administrator and deputy supervisor. He now says he does not see a future role in the town government for himself.

“When the time comes, you’ll know,” he said, of retirement.

In Westerlo, William Bichteman was appointed deputy supervisor in Lawson’s place. Like Lawson, Bichteman is not a councilman, but he chairs the water board. Bichteman served as a councilman until 2018, and was appointed to the water board again this past fall. He told The Enterprise he had been interested in the position as a way to continue to be involved in local government.

“I’ve been involved in local government for five or six years now,” he said. “It kind of gets into your blood, I guess.”

With two applicants already, the Westerlo Town Board agreed to advertise for the position of code-enforcement officer, with a special meeting scheduled on Jan. 18 to continue the hiring process.

The board is also looking to hire a new zoning board member after its longtime chairwoman, Virginia Mangold, resigned. The town board appointed zoning board member John Sefcik in her place.

The town board is also looking to hire a new dog control officer and town attorney

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