Collins town supervisor retires
COLLINS — From flattening plots of land that hoist haphazardly buildings to having a fiscally responsible wallet for his town, Collins Town Supervisor David Tessmer, 55, has furthered his agenda to clean up Collins and make eye sores into beauties. However, Tessmer’s tenure in the position will be coming to an end as he will not rerun this coming election season.
The supervisor since 2011 — and he’s been on the board since 2003 — has done his civic duty and aspires to become handyman Dad, essentially a character from Tim Allen’s Home Improvement.
The fourth decade; the change in life goals
Once Tessmer turned 40, he told himself that he wanted to become active in his community and become a mason. The environmental engineer did exactly that. When it came to his community input, being a part of the town hall seemed innate for Tessmer.
“I started in 2001 on the zoning board of appeals,” Tessmer said. “I am not even sure how I got involved on that board. We had a case to the board and Craig Brown said, ‘You’re going to be the chairman.’ I knew nothing about being a chairman.
“So, I came up with some forms and procedures and stuff like that. He (Brown) said, ‘This is what you should do.’ … I owe it all to Craig Brown.”
Ken Martin, who still sits on the board today, suggested to Tessmer that he should run for the board after he got involved with the Republican Party of Collins.
“Once I was here, I was hooked,” Tessmer said. “It was fun to get things done. It was fun to help people. It was fun to be involved in the process.”
As the years passed, Tessmer’s experience on the town board helped him achieve the supervisor’s position in 2011. His agenda, along with the board, was simple: to improve the town’s look and do it smart. In nearby areas alone, the finances aren’t adding up, which questioned how Collins could sustain stability.
Whether it’s Gowanda and the cuts needed to be made (like garbage disposal) and hikes in water and sewer rates or the town of Evans that had an audit in April in which exposed the lack of accounting and ill-spent money, many Western New York media outlets report, small economies are struggling as populations are dwindling.
Yet, the town of Collins avoids the troubles along with safely spending money toward the town’s objective.
The town hall got a new roof, new paint job, new bathrooms in the basement, new offices. The L.K. Painter Center’s roof is being done with most of it via grant money, it has new floors, new windows, doors and a paint job as well.
“First thing is, we don’t borrow money to do projects,” Tessmer said of his board’s past purchases. “We pay cash for everything and what we’ve done is, over the last five years, we implemented a spending plan so that the money doesn’t happen by accident. The money is put there for projects and to do this kind of stuff. It is not a matter of having a low spending year to building something the next year, we planned for this.”
Tessmer’s effort put forth has lasting impact
For over the past few years, eye sores have been on Tessmer’s hit list. Those ugly buildings that have holes in the roof and weeds growing taller than people are marked down on the list. Prime examples are the former residence at 2296 Gowanda Zoar Road in Gowanda and the building that previously erected at 3585 Route 39 in Collins Center, which both became land plots this summer.
No, the process was not quick as the town took around a year and a quarter to find the correct address, contact the owner, do a public hearing for demolition, check for asbestos, accept bid requests and finally put that wrecking ball to the side of the building. However, now the town knows what to do and how to get the process going. Thus, the rest of the decaying structures on the list should be shaking — and probably already are due to poor conditions.
“We got the systems in place to get it done,” Tessmer said. “We know how to do it now. We took so long to do the first one because we wanted to do it right. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to leave a bad taste in our mouth and that it was going to work and work well. And it did.
“… We got two dilapidated structures down; we’ve got another one scheduled for a public hearing next meeting. … It’s a quality of life thing and that was part of my platform.”
Besides knowing the system of removing blight buildings, Tessmer’s replacement and the board that continue will inherit many other legacy effects. From improved facilities to a procedure plan to pay for needed fixtures five years in advance, the new supervisor has large shoes to fill.
“I think what I tried to do is that I tried to improve all of our facilities, all of our processes, all of our procedures and try to make our systems work better…,” Tessmer said. “I tried to improve everything that the people see. This is their stuff; we are just babysitting all of these properties and all this equipment.
“It belongs to the people of the town and I want them to be happy with the way we are safe guarding it.”
Retiring to become Dad
“Here’s what happened: I had a heart attack last summer and so that gave me a new perspective on what’s important and there is a certain amount of stress that is involved just inherently with being a public servant,” Tessmer said. “There’s stress because look at what you’re doing. Nobody says everything is rainbows and unicorns; they come with problems we have to deal with.”
The near-life threatening incident was an epiphany of sorts. The cliche, ‘my life flashed before my eyes,’ turned into a reality for the supervisor, who missed the town board meeting that followed his incident.
The father of three, Stephanie, Elliott and Andrew, wanted his role to change from being the self-employed guy who spent spare time assisting the town to the father of his children, who spent his spare time working, maybe. After retiring from the town of Collins, he will scale back on his work as well.
“I don’t want to be at some board meeting at 9 o’clock with the rest of my family home when I drop over dead,” Tessmer said. “That’s not what I want to have happen.”
Tessmer’s idea of post-politician is rather a typical dad, though it is heavy on the handyman side.
“I am looking forward to being that dad guy that can help my kids get their lives going,” he said. “When my oldest son says, ‘Hey, I found some apartment on the west side of the city that my buddies and I want to move into, but it needs some help. Can you come and help us?’ That’s what I want to do.”
He stated that his oldest child Stephanie was well on her way to independence and her need of assistance is little. His son Elliott, a senior at SUNY Fredonia, is the one he sees he will be helping the most because his youngest Andrew, a senior at Springville-Griffith Institute, will be close enough where he doesn’t need to call, Tessmer said.
“It’s met with mixed reviews, let’s just put it that way,” Tessmer joked in response by how his kids replied to him being an available handyman dad. “Probably my middle son is going to be the one, when he can’t figure out the programable thermostat on his furnace or whatever, I am going to get the call. That’s what I am looking forward to. My youngest son, I don’t think he is ever leaving home, so I don’t think he’s ever going to have his own thermostat to do with.”
Last but not least to Tessmer is his wife Peg. The mother of the household has many roles, of course, but Tessmer said, “She’s the heart and soul of our family and she says it’s time for me to go.”
The final months before retirement
Tessmer has three months to prepare, clean up and finish what’s left on his plate. The list of buildings cannot be done in that time nor can the town’s plan to build a new cold storage area for the highway department, which is on the five-year plan, but Tessmer can still put it in his last budget. A budget that will extend his five-year plan and further push the idea of spending safely.
There is many people Tessmer to thank, with his family and Brown being two already stated. One that stuck out was Sue Gamel as he said, “Sue is the brains of this outfit,” meaning the town board. Of course, it was not to be left out that the people of Collins were of great help and the support his board, in which he sits beside every couple weeks for a two-hour meeting, gave.
Those two hours now can be spent travelling to SUNY Fredonia or the west side of Buffalo as he helps fix thermostats and other miscellaneous stuff to become a full-time dad, while everything else can wait.
“The people here are tremendous,” Tessmer added. “We have such a great core group of people here. I couldn’t have done it without all of these people. … It’s been my pleasure to do it and I just feel it is my time.”