Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey announced today he will not run for re-election to the office he has held for a single, memorable, term.
Brochey said a Christmas visit to Las Vegas provided all the motivation he and his wife Cathy needed to decide to say goodbye to western New York for good.
"This is a difficult decision," he said. "But Cathy and I decided there is no easy time to retire and leave the community we love. We purchased a home in Las Vegas a few months ago so we could visit our daughter and grandchildren more often, but as many of you will understand, it is hard to leave them. Our decision is simply personal—we want to be with each other all the time."
Mark J. Briglio, the Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Lewiston, has announced his candidacy for Town Supervisor to succeed Brochey, who appointed Briglio to the position when former deputy supervisor Sean Edwards left office due to illness.
Brochey was elected in 2013 defeating Republican Ernie Palmer by a narrow margin. He had previously served as a trustee on the Village of Lewiston Board.
At the time, the town government was under concurrent federal and state investigations in connection with purchasing practices and the use of town property and equipment. The town's fiscal condition was also fragile.
"I'm proud of what I was able to do to clean up those problems and set up policies and procedures to make town government more accountable," he said. "You must be vigilant and not become lax in protecting the taxpayers' money, and that is something I always look to do and want to be sure happens in the future."
Asked how he felt about his time in office, Brochey replied quickly.
“I feel great,” he said. “In two years, we’ve managed to cut the town’s $750,000 deficit in half, and we should end this year within $100,000 of breaking even.”
Brochey said he sees environmental concerns as a major issue for Lewiston for years to come.
"We must err on the side of caution and prudence and not let the state and federal governments use Lewiston as a convenient dumping ground for other areas simply because we have facilities here," he said.
Throughout his term as supervisor, Brochey was known for asking tough questions and a refusal to be intimidated, especially when it came to the environment.
Most recently, he took on US Sen. Charles Schumer, a fellow Democrat, over the proposed expansion of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge plaza in the town.
In a letter to Schumer fired off after a press conference Brochey was conspicuously not invited to, he wrote, “I’m all for economic growth in our area and to increase the speed and flow of Canadian traffic in our county. This brings money into our area and the tax generated helps our budget tremendously.”
But, citing health concerns when talk of expansion at the Peace Bridge stirred controversy starting in 2006, Brochey wrote, "A higher rate of young people with asthma was noted, and there was talk back then about diverting more truck traffic to Lewiston because of this.
"Last year I called Rep. (Brian) Higgins to try and stop this. He had an aide call me back and tell me not to worry and that it wouldn’t happen. According to his office, they felt that the Grand Island bridges were too narrow for that kind of flow of trucks, and that even the toll plaza wouldn’t be able to handle the anticipated extra flow.”
In an earlier, unrelated controversy, Brochey stopped a proposed low income housing project scheduled for development in the town, again based on environmental concerns. The Bridgewater project had been fast tracked through the environmental impact study phase by Brochey’s predecessor who, it turned out, owned an interest in the project.
A former gas station on the property needed remediation, and developers hadn’t bothered with a traffic study to see if the street out front was adequate. Town Board members who had previously voted enthusiastically for the project changed their minds once Brochey presented the evidence .
Brochey said he was grateful to both of his deputies, Sean Edwards and Mark Briglio for their work and support. Both men made his job a lot easier, he said.
"Mark is a natural," Brochey said. "He has the strong management background, technical and people skills needed in the Supervisor's office. In only a few months, he has shown an understanding of the issues we face and commitment to do the job. I’ve urged him to run for the office because I see in him the commitment and vision to lead Lewiston in the years to come."
Brochey said he regrets the blind partisanship he faced on a town board of three Republicans and an Independence Party member who caucus together.
He sees the need for people to be more open to consensus for the good of the community as a whole.
"I've tried to make decisions based on what the facts are and what the citizens are interested in, and not someone's political affiliation," he said. "That's how we get good government. I see that same belief in Mark Briglio and will put my full energy behind him to run as my successor.”
I know my wife and I are going to miss Lewiston and the wonderful people here," Brochey said. "I do think the future is bright for our community and we intend to visit often, especially in the summer months."
Brochey operated Dennis Brochey's Automotive in Lewiston for decades and earned his money in the private sector before dipping into politics.
In a way he was the gold standard for those who enter public service.
Not making it a career, he served for a season - to the best of his ability.
And we here at the Niagara Falls Reporter are going to miss Dennis Brochey, a colorful character who provided us with a slew of interesting stories.