Westerlo Dems back Lounsbury and Bichteman again

Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia

Incumbents: William Bichteman, left, and Theodore Lounsbury raise their right hands, repeating an oath of office in January, when the town board falsely appointed them as councilmen with 2-to-1 votes. The two Democrats were appointed with the necessary votes the following month to replace seats vacated by Democrats at the end of 2012. In the upcoming November election, Richard Rapp, town supervisor and Democratic committee chairman, said the two will run for full, four-year terms on the Democratic line.

WESTERLO — Richard Rapp, chairman of the town’s Democratic committee and Westerlo’s supervisor, said Democrats plan to support the two newest incumbents on the town board, William Bichteman and Theodore Lounsbury.

“Teddy’s very quiet, but I think he’ll do very well in time,” Rapp said. “He tries to find out what the people want.”

Bichteman and Lounsbury were appointed to their seats in February to fill the vacancies left by resigning Democrats Edward Rash and Gregory Zeh at the end of 2012. The board is made up of all Democrats.

Bichteman retired in 2006 from a career in highway construction and as owner of Trinity Construction Inc. He was the most vocal of the board members during board discussions. Since April, the board has held work meetings apart from its regular ones. Bichteman has favored the extra meetings, saying the board is more productive when not responding to residents in the gallery, as is common during monthly meetings.

Lounsbury speaks little during town board meetings, but insisted in June that the board would wait for Bichteman, who was absent, to vote on whether or not to accept a report on hydraulic fracturing prepared by a town committee. For the vote, Lounsbury voted with Alfred Field in opposition to Bichteman’s motion to revise and not accept the report.

The last Republican member was Jack Milner, who challenged an appointed, incumbent Democrat. Before him, there had been just one other Republican on the town board for several decades.

Milner, chairman of the town’s Republican committee, attributed a lack of prospective Republican candidates to the difficulty he experienced while working with four Democrats on the five-member board.

“Most people in their right mind don’t want to go through that,” Milner, a farmer, said on Wednesday. He said the people approached by the Republicans so far have backed out, but the committee would meet again within the next week to try and put forth a candidate for the town board.

“We’re pretty confident with Keith,” said Milner, adding that Highway Superintendent Keith Wright, an enrolled Democrat, asked for the Republicans’ support.

Rapp said the Democrats would support Kenneth Mackey for town justice and Wright for highway superintendent. Wright was appointed to the position on Dec. 4 to fill a vacancy left by retiring John Nevins.

Of the 2,233 registered voters in Westerlo, 1,084, about half,  are enrolled as Democrats; 431, or about a fifth, as Republicans, 126 with the Independence Party, 58 as Conservatives, 13 with other parties, and 521, almost a quarter, are unaffiliated, according to 2012 voter affiliation numbers by Albany County.

The Democrats will hold interviews and caucus on Aug. 8, said Rapp, who has another two years on his term as supervisor.

“Years ago, a lot of people would vote the straight lines,” he said. “Now they vote for who they want.”

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