Politics are in Mike Lesch's blood. His great-grandfather, George Train, was Auburn city manager between 1951 and 1955. His grandmother Margaret "Peg" Lesch and his brother, Jason Lesch, have served on the Auburn school district board.
Now, Michael Lesch hopes it's his turn to serve residents in his city and Cayuga County. At 34, he's throwing his hat in the ring for the Cayuga County Legislature District 11 seat running on the Republican and Conservative party lines against Elane Daly. Daly is running on the Democrat, Working Families and Auburn First party lines.
By day, Lesch is a certified public accountant at Cuddy & Ward LLP in downtown. After getting his accounting degree from LeMoyne College in 2005, he chose to come back to his hometown to work and live. He recently married Mallory Donigan, and they hope to raise a family of their own in Auburn.
But Lesch is concerned with how the county's population has declined over the past 20 years from about 84,000 people to 77,000. People aren't coming back to live in the city like he did, and he wants that to change. That, too, is causing a greater tax burden on a smaller number of people, he said.
"I loved growing up in Auburn," he said in an interview with The Citizen on Oct. 4. "I like the feel of a hometown where you know people. You know the people you're working with. You know your neighbors. I can get to the office in five minutes. I can be on the lake in 10 minutes. Auburn just has so much to offer that people don't realize."
Often carrying a binder around with his research, Lesch said he's examined the population numbers of counties surrounding Cayuga. They haven't experienced the same drastic population decline, he noted.
As an accountant, he hopes he can take his problem solving skills to the Legislature and figure out how to optimize opportunities for the area.
"What can we do to distinguish ourselves in Cayuga County, to draw people to move here with their families, to find employment here in Cayuga County, to draw businesses? These are huge concerns for me," he said. "Then obviously being a numbers nerd, (I want to) just to look at the budget and to study it and see where we could create additional efficiencies, save money, or produce a better product for constituents."
If elected, he said, he's most looking forward to listening to the people he would represent. Campaigning was intimidating at first. He said going door-to-door was out of his comfort zone, but he's learned so much as a result. Besides keeping people in the county, Lesch said the water quality of Owasco Lake needs to be addressed.
Having been to a Save Owasco Now! meeting and an Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council meeting, he's working to understand what's already being done to help the watershed, and where more resources should be directed.
"I have a vested interest in Cayuga County being its best," he said.