By Connor Linskey
Although candidates are still collecting signatures to appear on the ballot, three have announced their candidacy for Montgomery Village Trustee.
Don Berger will challenge incumbents Michael Hembury and Walter Lindner for two open four-year terms.
Berger, one of the founders of citizens group Residents Protecting Montgomery (RPM), announced on Jan. 9 via Facebook that he will run for a Village of Montgomery Trustee position.
“The village in my opinion is moving in the wrong direction as far as industrial development,” he said. “I think there needs to be a much needed voice for the residents to speak out on and communicate with our village representatives that we are a no warehouse village, we’re a historic village and we want to stay that way.”
Berger ran for Montgomery Village Trustee in 2017 and 2019, falling short on both occasions. In addition to being one of the leaders of RPM, Berger has been a constant fixture at Village of Montgomery and Montgomery Town Board meetings.
“I am qualified in knowing what type of development is being brought to our town and village,” he said.
If elected, Berger will be the outreach for village residents to voice their concerns. He also wants to act as a liaison between small businesses and the village board in order to foster economic growth. Berger wants to help businesses, as many have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to get our downtown village back on track,” Berger said. “And I think I can do that.”
Michael Hembury has been a trustee in the Village of Montgomery since 2009, helping to improve the village in many ways.
During his tenure on the board, Hembury helped establish a village curfew, so children under the age of 16 cannot walk the streets in the early hours of the morning. In addition, he has helped run the Toys for Tots Train in the village, a toy donation drive for families in need. As a board member, he has contributed to an employee buyback, where 2-3 workers were paid $2,000 each to waive insurance, saving the village $28,000 per employee. Hembury has been involved in the village car show as well as the Executive Order 203 Committee to help reform the police department. Above all else, Hembury is proud that the village is one of the safest in the country, placing 74 of 39,000 in a 2019 survey.
“Crime is the number one thing,” he said. “A municipal government’s main job is to assure its residents are as safe as possible.”
One way Hembury makes people feel safe is through the village’s welcoming committee. As head of the committee, he welcomes new residents to the village when they move in. He gives restaurant menus and gift certificates to the new residents in order to improve the economy and introduce them to the business’ in town.
If elected for another term, Hembury hopes to continue to make the village a safe and affordable place to live. The Village of Montgomery means everything to him.
“This village is so safe that both my daughters, sons-in-law and four grandchildren have purchased homes in this village,” he said. “We are not going anywhere. This is my home forever. I don’t do this for the notoriety, the salary. I do this because I cannot have this place change. This to me is paradise.”
If elected to another term, Walter Lindner aims to finish several important projects.
He hopes to finish the zoning amendments to the Village of Montgomery Comprehensive Plan. As the board’s liaison to the senior center, he hopes to obtain a grant in order to build an addition to the senior center. The 24-foot extension would be used for storage as well as a meeting room.
“We came real close to getting the grant but in the final analysis we lost out,” Lindner said. “We’re confident that this year we’re gonna reapply and get the grant.”
Lindner also assists with the county’s Senior Dining Program, which provides meals to people 60 and over. In addition, he volunteers with the Town of Montgomery Senior Independence Project.
He is also looking to build additional pickleball courts between the basketball courts and the picnic pavilion.
He is heavily involved in the Village of Montgomery community. Lindner has served as a village trustee since late 2012, when he filled a vacancy. He has served as a member of the Town of Montgomery Board of Assessment Review for about 20 years.
As a village trustee, the accomplishment Lindner is most proud of is helping to build the bandstand on Clinton Street.
“I think we ended up building a really beautiful bandstand,” he said.
Lindner also helped institute the summer concert series at the bandstand, which showcases local bands. He is excited by the opportunity to continue to serve the village.
“I’m hoping to work with the village board, the community, make some changes to the zoning,” he said. “Those are the things I’m looking forward to and of course the basics of trying to keep taxes down and help bring new businesses into the village and help the village continue to grow.”
Candidates have until Feb. 9 to submit their petition to the village clerk. The election will take place on Tuesday, March 16.