Walter Bennett is a Waterloo resident who didn’t see himself getting into politics. Yet, in less than a week, he will face off against incumbent Republican Jack O’Connor in the village’s primary for mayor.
“I didn’t have any political aspirations,” he told FingerLakes1.com in an interview late last week. “I was approached that there was an election coming up and that I should run. I didn’t even know there was an election coming up.” Bennett said the typical concerns came up when he considered a run for mayor. Time constraints were the biggest concern he had when thinking it over amongst family and friends.
“After a while I started thinking, maybe I am the guy to handle some of these issues,” he recalled. Those issues include the loss of culture inside the community and brain drain small communities like Waterloo have seen over the last two decades.
Population decline and enrollment at school districts across the Finger Lakes paint a tough picture for communities like Waterloo. Attracting young people who are starting families or looking to plant roots is regularly discussed, but putting those ideas into action is a little more challenging.
“We’re a very transient town, we have kids that leave for work or college after high school and don’t come back,” Bennett continued. “I would like to see if we can change that. Look at some things outside the box and address concerns along the way.”
Essential services, like fire and police protection are top concerns among residents. This is where Walter Bennett, the business analyst, says he could thrive at helping the community find answers. “We have to find a balance between services and not increasing costs through taxes,” he continued.
Bennett believes downtown, which has been the focus of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative can be made more attractive to locals and investors. He said that linking sense of community, the geography of Waterloo’s village, and downtown are all important.
“Are things always going to be done the way they always have been?” he asked. One major question he had for the Village, which he hopes to change, is that there be more opportunities for the community to become engaged with local government. “Not everyone is comfortable speaking out at a village board meeting, but we need to get input from as many people as possible,” Bennett continued. “There’s an opportunity through the DRI, improving downtown, and building that sense of community if we work harder to give residents a voice.”
Bennett is a Technical Business Analyst for Alludo, the company behind software like WinZip, Parallels, Corel Draw, and MindManager. Prior to taking on that role, he was a software developer for 15 years.