Muller calls it quits as supervisor

Mary Perham
Fred Muller’s time in office has included dealing with lawsuits, adult use stores and incorrect tax rates.

After Bath Town Supervisor Fred Muller took office in January 2006, dozens of residents packed the first board meeting, as he recalls.

“Uh, there was this thing about an adult book store,” he said, with a wry grin. “Remember that?”

The board had learned there was nothing they could do about that store, given court decisions at the time.

“But we passed a moratorium,” Muller said. “On any future ones. They told us we couldn’t do that. But we did.”

The moratorium allowed a special committee to look into the issues and pass laws limiting the location of so-called adult use stores.

What Muller remembers most about the first meeting, though, was the number of angry or upset or worried people wanting to speak.

“And every one of them had their chance,” he said. “Every one of them. I believed it was the right thing to do. I believe in letting people have their say.”

 Muller’s first four years as a councilman had been fairly chaotic – an accounting error led to a double-digit tax rate increase, which was discovered too late to change. Angry residents attended every meeting, demanding changes to town policies. The board weathered lawsuits brought on by former town officials insisting on post-election benefits. Two proposed water districts were defeated.

Muller wasn’t sure his first term as supervisor wouldn’t bring more of the same.

But people spoke, and he listened. And if he didn’t have an answer he found it, or located someone who did have the answer.

He was re-elected twice, and decided to step down this year, at the end of his third term.

“I ran for supervisor because I felt I could bring continuity,” Muller said. “Mend some fences. I’d like to think I brought some stability.”

Those who have worked with him during the past 10 years feel his approach to his native town, and its government, did go a long way toward restoring the town’s center of gravity.

That doesn’t mean everything remains on an even keel internally all the time, they said.

Both Town Bookkeeper Lee Dickey and retiring Town Clerk Marcia Burns say they have disagreed with Muller from time to time.

“Even if we don’t agree, all the time, so what,” Dickey said .  “He’s a lot of fun. And he doesn’t hold grudges.”

Burns, who will be sworn in as town supervisor next year said Muller has always worked in the best interest of Bath.

“Fred is pretty level, pretty even,” Burns said. “And he’s got a good sense of humor. You need that in that job.”

Muller said his background as a businessman helped him with the town’s finances – up to a certain point.

“Municipal budgeting is like no other,” he said. “There’s a whole different way of accounting. But I kept the budget under control – for five years, any way.”

Beset by increased costs and a dwindling reserve, the budget Muller presented for 2012 carries a tax rate increase of more than 15 percent.