By Bill Wolcott
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Julia A. Maedl is stepping away from politics after 19 years of service to the Village of Middleport in 2001.
Maedl, who was a village trustee for nine years and village mayor for 10 years, will not seek re-election. She says she will remain very active, however.
Since the death of her husband, Robert Maedl in 2008, the Middleport mayor has been running Maedl Woodcrafts. She is on the tourist committee, chair of business association and trustee of Middleport United Methodist Church. She sings in the choir and is in charge of Harvest dinner and chicken barbecue. She manages 28 apartments.
“I’m tired. I’m exhausted,” the 61-year-old grandmother said. “Between watching the kids and playing with the kids, just enjoying my family and working in the business — when you package it all together, I don’t want to be mayor anymore.”
Julia A. Simmons was born in North Carolina and moved to Pendleton when she was 2-years-old. She attended a one-room school house in the growing Niagara County town. In third grade, the new Starpoint Central School opened.
Her family moved to Middleport and she fell in love with he village of about 2,000 residents that sits on the Erie Canal and is claimed by the towns of Royalton and Hartland.
“I’ve always been community-minded,” she said. “Although I wasn’t born and raised in Middleport, I love Middleport. I l-o-v-e Middleport. It had everything on a small scale. It was so nice to have sidewalks. There was the Red & White store, all kinds of commerce on Main and State, the post office and bank. To walk on sidewalks, it was so cool.”
Julie started attending village board meetings and then became a trustee in 1992. The village board meets once a month, but Maedl put a lot of time into it.
“As a trustee, it’s whatever you want to make of it,” she said. “You can go out there and beat the bushes and talk to the people, talk about ideas and projects. I had projects I wanted to pursue, so I probably put a lot more effort than some others.”
Maedl did beat the bushes with the blessing of Mayor Bill Holahan. “Mayor Holahan was the Norman Rockwell of Middleport, because that’s pretty much how he lived his life.” Maedl said. “He pretty much encouraged us to do anything we wanted — and I did.”
Maedl was tested early in her first term as mayor of the village. “I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in meetings and meetings and meetings and when I first became mayor, everything broke,” she said.
The well on Mountain Road, which served the residents with water, was shut down by health department. The lid at the sewer treatment plant ruptured and the cost to overhaul was heavy. The village did its due process and its insurance company paid about 80 percent of the cost.
On the smile side, the village was named the Best Place to Raise a Child in New York state by Newsweek Magazine; nationally, Middleport placed 11th.
“It came totally out of the blue,” Maedl said. The village put up a sign on Main Street and will put up two more in the spring, one on Route 31 and one at the playground near the school.
The job of being mayor was also at times frustrating for Maedl. “Anyone who knows me or my husband and our family knows we’re very hard workers and I like to get things done,” she said. “That was the hardest thing for me, to accept the fact that something took 10 meetings that, in my mind, it was extremely simple. It was government, you know...”
Maedl feels the village does miss out on a lot of grants because Middleport does not have an formal grant writer. “It’s kind of by guess and by golly,” she said. “When I have more time, I want to devote more time to go after grants.”
Julie has two children, Richard who lives in the Maedl Lane Development, and Heather Pedini who lives in the village. Richard has two boys and Heather has two girls. Julie also has three step grandchildren.
Grandma Maedl babysits for both families. Owen Robert, almost 2, was taking a nap during the interview and Julie was ready to pick up another grandchild from school.
“Since my husband passed away, I had to shoulder too much responsibility,” she said. Maedl not only takes care of the books, but sometimes has to do some of the heavy lifting.
“I physically have to go out in the shop. They need three sets of hands. Some of the counter tops are huge,” she said. “My husband worked like two men.”
There is a movement to merge villages into towns, but Maedl does not see that happening in Middleport.
“There’s a misconception that it’s going to save a ton of money, but in reality, somebody still has to pick up the garbage and they still have to plow the streets,” she said. “Somebody still has do the things that the municipalities do. It’s not abandoned. Is there a lot of savings? No. We do better with our tax dollars than getting them lost in a township.”
Maedl hopes she leaves a positive mark in Middleport.
Contact reporter Bill Wolcott at 439-9222, ext. 6246.