Supervisor's Corner: WEDA, the Best Organization You’ve Never Heard Of
By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty
While campaigning in September 2019, I met Pete Chatfield while going door to door. Pete told me that if I really wanted to get an idea of ALL that was going on in Webster, I should meet his son Matt. One week later, Matt Chatfield and I met for coffee at the Village Bakery. At that meeting, I found out Matt was the Executive Director of an organization called WEDA, which is an acronym for Webster Economic Development Alliance. Matt described to me how the organization was formed several years ago, and had as its five (5) board members: Town Supervisor, Village Mayor, Superintendent of Schools, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, and the President of the Business Improvement District (BID).
Matt showed me a brochure that highlighted what WEDA’s mission is, and what it had accomplished in the past 5 years as to securing state and federal grants for Webster projects. As our meeting culminated, I stated to Matt, “WEDA is awesome! Why haven’t I heard of it prior and that I speculate that most of the Webster citizens do NOT know about the organization and what it does and has accomplished!”
When I became Town Supervisor in January 2020, I became one of the five board members of WEDA. I’ve attended the monthly meetings of WEDA and it has helped me immensely in getting to know the Village Mayor Darrell Byerts, School Superintendent Carm Gamina, BID President Elana Bernardi, and Chamber of Commerce CEO Barry Howard. How did it end up that WEDA would put these five people in the same room at least once a month? I found out that years ago, while finalizing the by-laws of this organization, Chamber of Commerce CEO Barry Howard had the foresight to assure that the five entities that made up the governance of WEDA would ONLY have their “top person” representing this. The initial draft of the by-laws stated that the top person of each of these entities, or “a designated representative.” Barry was VERY smart to demand the top person be the representative.
WEDA is a unique organization that none of the other 900+ towns in New York has. In fact, many town supervisors I have talked to said they can’t believe that such an organization exists that unites government, school, and business for the purpose of doing what is “Best for Webster,” and use that united force to drive projects, and the grants and funding needed for them. To get five entities to share in the funding of WEDA is foundational to the unique nature of it. WEDA’s annual budget is under $80,000, yet the organization has brought in grants to Webster 15 times the annual budget on average the past six years.
Since 2014, WEDA has secured $7,465,000 for the following projects in Webster:
$815,000 for bicycle, pedestrian and beautification enhancements on North Avenue in the Village of Webster:
$1,480,000 for sidewalks on Ridge Road from Jackson Road to Five Mile Line Road;
$118,000 for design and engineering of a new public park on Webster’s Sandbar waterfront;
$1,425,000 for the realignment of Lake Road and construction of waterfront promenade at Sandbar Park;
$711,000 for shoreline protection and flood prevention at Sandbar Park/Bayside Restaurant;
$73,000 towards the construction of a permanent dock for a West Webster Fire Boat on Irondequoit Bay;
$476,000 for sanitary pump station flood resilience improvements on Lake Road;
$350,000 for East Main Street revitalization efforts in the Village of Webster;
$1,838,000 for roadway improvement within the Xerox industrial zone;
$50,000 for the development of a Community Revitalization Strategy;
$87,000 for the Study of a Chilled Water System in Webster’s Industrial Zone;
$42,000 towards reactivation of a vacant former Xerox facility on Salt Road.
In the next 15 months, as we go into 2022, the governance of WEDA is looking to produce a strategic plan to have WEDA utilized even more in the future for the “Best for Webster.” There may be volunteer opportunities opening up within that effort on various committees. Stay tuned for more details on this AWESOME organization!
As always, if you want to reach me, please call (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.