Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Bernie Leiker and Aaron Nellist, the two new mayors of villages in Eastern Niagara County, are enjoying their new positions while taking different routes on the learning curve from trustee to “hizzoner.”
”It wasn’t such a big jump,” said Bernie Leiker who won a close election in the Village of Wilson. “It was an easy transition.”
Outgoing mayor Pat Kelahan, who moved to Newfane, appointed Leiker deputy mayor. The former Williamsville teacher and school administrator ran the village during the transition.
Leiker and his wife Colleen moved to the village in 2008 after his retirement. He considered retiring in Costa Rica, but spotted a house on Dox Avenue and opted to make their home in the village on the lake.
Bernie wanted to do something for the community and began attending village meetings “to see what was going on.” Lieker was approached to join the village board and became trustee three years ago. His experience handling budgets and working with people made him the choice for deputy mayor.
The mayor’s pay is more than $5,000.
“It’s not a 9-to-5 job,” Leiker said. “I love it, living in the village, working here and I love the people. There’s a lot of good things to like here and I am able to give back to to the community.”
Bernie and Connie Leiker hava a 31-year-old son.
Nellist, a graduate of Barker High School, went to work as a maintenance assistant for the State Canal Corp. after attending Genesee Community College. He was born in Medina and lived in Lyndonville.
Aaron and Heather have been married eight years.
”I started going to meetings a few years ago because I felt I wasn’t in the loop,” he said. “I wanted a little more say on how money was spent.”
Initially, he found the task of being a trustee was overwhelming and terms like “abstract” and “budget transfer” were new to him.
”There was more to it than I thought,” he said.
After attending meetings for four or five years, Nellist felt he was ready for the next step.
”I learned a lot from other people,” he said.
After being sworn in as mayor, Nellist he took a 10 percent pay cut, going from $2,500 to $2,250 a year. Nobody objected to his gesture.
Nellist said he enjoys working with trustees Scott Matheis and Pat Fuller and new trustees Mark Wilson and Greg Keith. His goals are to beautify Main Street, update the infrastructure and keep the tax rate low while maintaining service.
”There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” he said. “I like it. I’m excited.”