2 very active Orleans County legislators plan to retire after this year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2021 at 2:23 pm

Ken DeRoller and John DeFilipps have been key county leaders

Photos by Tom Rivers: John DeFilipps, left, and Ken DeRoller are shown in May 2013 when they were both endorsed for the first time by the Orleans County Republican Committee to run for the County Legislature. The two have notified Republican Party leaders they don’t plan to seek re-election.

John DeFilipps of Clarendon and Ken DeRoller of Kendall joined the Orleans County Legislature together just over seven years ago. The two from the east side of the county have been very active and visible, pushing key issues and connecting with local residents and officials at the state and federal levels.

Both have notified Orleans County Republican Party officials they don’t intend to seek re-election to another two-year term.

“Their work ethic has been amazing,” said Skip Draper, a county legislator who is also chairman of the Orleans County Republican Party. “They are very good legislators.”

The election cycle starts sooner now. Candidates used to pursue endorsements from the local parties in April and May. But the schedule was moved up by the state last year. The local political parties are already recruiting candidates and checking with incumbent office holders to see their intentions.

DeFilipps and DeRoller both said they pride themselves on giving the job their all. But they don’t want to be so busy in what is supposed to be a part-time position.

“I like different challenges and it’s time to move on,” DeRoller said today. “I’m the type of person who is built to be 100 percent all in.”

He has been instrumental in having the county and local municipalities tackle waterfront plans along Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal. He also is a member of the Leadership Orleans program, and said it’s critical for the community to develop and encourage a new generation of leaders. The program gives each class exposure to many sectors in the county, from tourism, economic development, agriculture, manufacturing, education, healthcare and more. The 2020 class was interrupted from Covid-19 but is scheduled to resume in April.

DeRoller and DeFilipps are both members of the Orleans Economic Development Agency board of directors. DeRoller is pleased the EDA supported the Cottages at Troutburg in Kendall, where new homes are being built along the lakefront. The agency also has worked to have 300 acres certified and shovel-ready at the Medina Business Park.

The two also graduated from a County Government Institute run by the New York State Association of Counties. They have both pushed to connect with officials in Albany and Washington, DC.

“You have to be in the room where the decisions are being made,” DeFilipps said.

DeFilipps, 63, joined the Legislature after 12 years on the Clarendon Town Board and after retiring from General Motors, farming on the much and running a convenience store in Clarendon.

John DeFilipps takes the oath of office on Aug. 14, 2017 from former County Clerk Karen Lake-Maynard. DeFilipps was picked by the other legislators to serve as the chairman for part of his tenure on the Legislature.

DeFilipps is an at-large legislator, which is a county-wide position. DeRoller represents District 4, the towns of Kendall, Murray and Carlton and the Village of Holley. Both have gone beyond what could reasonably be expected.

In addition to his county committees, DeFilipps serves on the boards for the EDA, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Fish and Wildlife Board. He also attends many of the town and village meetings around the county, and even goes to many of the county committee meetings which he isn’t on.

“It’s a tough decision,” DeFilipps said about his plan to retire from the Legislature after this year. “But there may be other opportunities.”

DeFilipps said it takes about four years to get a good handle on all of the local issues, and to connect with all the local, state and federal officials, as well as key local stakeholders.

“There is a lot to learn,” he said. “I try to go to all the meetings and I am constantly reading.”

DeFilipps said government is set up to keep the elected officials in “silos.” That’s why he goes to so many village, town and county meetings, as well as connecting with state and federal officials.  He wants to see the whole picture.

County Legislator Ken DeRoller speaks during a public meeting in April 2018 about a waterfront plan for the towns of Carlton, Yates and Kendall.

DeRoller, 74, has made economic development a focus, and not just larger projects through the EDA. He supported making the tourism director a full-time position with a sole focus on tourism. Dawn Borchert serves in the role and the county attends more trade shows, distributes more tourism guides under her leadership. The county has also experienced growth in bed tax since expanding its tourism focus.

DeRoller also sees much more potential in Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal. That’s why he has spearheaded the waterfront development plans for both. The Erie Canal, in particular, has been “vastly underutilized,” he said.

DeRoller serves on the state’s Canal Recreationway Commission and is a county representative on the Genesee/Finger Lakes Planning Council.

He will be pushing this year to finalize a waterfront development plan for the Erie Canal in Orleans County. That document is nearly done and can be used to pursue grant funding for projects in the canal communities.

DeRoller is retired after 38 years at Kodak, including 12 years in the information technology department as a business analyst. He also worked with materials handling and logistics for the company.

He served 25 years on the Kendall Town Planning Board, including 15 years as its chairman. DeRoller was particularly interested in the lakefront and making better use of the 7 miles of lakefront in Kendall.

He helped write the comprehensive plan that made it possible to turn a former Salvation Army Camp into the Cottages of Troutburg.

DeRoller also has been an active crusader in getting the state to repave parts of the Lake Ontario State Parkway and rehab some of the Erie Canal bridges.

He estimates he has a collection of about 1,000 business cards from people he’s met in his role advocating for the county.

“I have liked the different challenges, but I feel like it’s time to move on,” DeRoller said. “I’ve built relationships with so many quality people.”

DeRoller and DeFilipps said the county faces many challenges, including the need for more widespread broadband internet.

“You’ve got to push and push,” DeRoller said. “We all need to keep working together.”