Westerlo Republicans call for transparency in town board

Richard Filkins

WESTERLO — Two Republicans are currently vying for two town council seats currently held by Democrats in Westerlo.

Kevin Flensted and Richard Filkins were nominated as town board candidates at the Westerlo Republican Caucus last Thursday. Democrats William Bichteman and Joseph Boone will be running to keep their seats on the town board.

GOP ask for transparency

Flensted, the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company chief, said his platform will focus on transparency in the town government, including financial records and at town meetings. Flensted said the town board meetings involve quickly moving through the agenda without items like the town supervisor’s report being immediately available for the audience to view.

Flensted said he would like to see meeting agendas published online, and for the town board to use social media and the town website to involve people in the government.

“I really want people to be more involved,” he said.

He also would like to use public events hosted by the town to bring residents together, noting that events hosted by the fire department have had a high turnout.

Flensted, who has lived in Westerlo since 2007, ran for a seat on the town council two years earlier, also stressing transparency. He works as a manager of quality compliance for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. He has been with the fire company since 2008, and is serving his third term as its chief, which will expire in December of next year. Should he win a seat on the town board, Flensted said he plans to keep his position as fire chief, but will not run to keep that seat next year.


Kevin Flensted


Like Flensted, Filkins said he is running on a platform of transparency in government. Filkins said he feels there are too many things done behind closed doors currently.

“My aim is to get more people aware,” he said.

Filkins would like to see things like expense reports made available to the public.

Filkins also said he would like to bring in more business to the town, as well as better access to high-speed internet. He said he felt both would keep younger people in the area rather than go to

“I think the town board has gotten kind of stale,” he said. “You have the same people, term after term, you really need to change it up a bit.”

Filkins, a Vietnam veteran and retired diesel mechanic for the railroad, has lived in Westerlo since 1966, and is a life member of the fire company and a trustee of the Volunteers of the Westerlo Rural Cemetery.

If either Filkins or Flensted were to be elected, but not their running mate, they would be one of two Republicans on an otherwise all-Democratic board. Currently, Amie Burnside is the sole Republican after being elected in 2015. Democrats make up half of the town’s registered voters, and a fifth of voters are enrolled as Republicans.

Both of the Republican challengers said party identity was not a high concern.

“Party lines are nice, but after the election, we all have to work together,” said Filkins.

“It’s about serving the taxpayers,” agreed Flensted. But he did note that, should he and Filkins both win, the town board would in fact have a majority of Republican members.

At the Republican caucus, Jody Ostrander was nominated for highway superintendent. Ostrander, an enrolled Democrat, was appointed to the position last month after his predecessor Keith Wright stepped down.

Dems look to continue projects

Bichteman, who has been serving on the town board for the past four years, said he would like to continue working on improvements in Westerlo and its infrastructure should he win another term. Such improvements include repairs to the town hall, grounds maintenance, and renewing the town’s comprehensive plan.


William Bichteman


Bichteman also said he would like to enroll more people in the town’s sole water district in order to decrease costs. The town currently charges about $17 for every 1,000 gallons used.

“That is not an easy fix,” said Bichteman. He would like to find ways to bring more people to the Westerlo hamlet, where they could then enroll in the water district.

“The target changes all the time,” he said, of working on the board.

Bichteman was appointed to fill an empty town council seat, and then ran to keep that seat. This will be his second election. Bichteman, retired from owning Trinity Construction, has lived in Westerlo all his life, and is a member of the local rod and gun club.

“I gave it a lot of thought,” he said, of his decision to run again. “You have to spend a lot of time...it takes an extraordinary amount of time.”

In response to the assertion that the board is not transparent enough, Bichteman said that the town conducts all its decision-making in public meetings, and that complaints of a lack of transparency are due to not understanding how local government processes like job appointments are carried out.

“I have trouble with the idea that we’re not transparent,” he said.


Joseph Boone


Boone, who works in sales at Hannay Reels, agreed that the town board was transparent, saying that the town board has in fact improved on this over the past few years, by giving out more information at town board meetings and town board workshop meetings — either in the form of printed meeting minutes and agenda or in information exchanged verbally during meetings between the town board and the audience.

Boone, who grew up in Westerlo, and has lived in town for about 35 years between the time growing up and moving back, was appointed to fill a position on the town council last August, and won an election to keep that seat the following November.

Boone said he had accepted the appointment because he was interested in becoming more involved with the town and the direction it is taking, as well as wanting to give back to his community. He said he would like to keep his seat in order to continue learning about the town government and continue doing his part.

“I used the last year to determine if I was really cut out for it,” he said.

He is also involved with the Westerlo Historic Museum Committee and is the assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 1079.

The Democratic caucus was held July 11. Ostrander was also nominated, and Kenneth Mackey was nominated for re-election as town justice. The town’s Republican party had not nominated anyone for town justice.

Corrected on July 21, 2017: We originally stated that William Bichteman was a member of the Westerlo fire department; he is not and never said he was.

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