By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Common Council President Rich Andres has dropped his bid for re-election in the city’s Second Ward and will instead seek a seat representing the Niagara County Legislature’s 8th District.
Andres’ announcement comes a week after Republican Legislator Peter Smolinski said he would retire from the slot at the end of this year. Smolinski has been a county legislator for 12 years.
Andres, a 33-year-old Republican, who was first elected to represent the city’s Second Ward in 2009, and selected council president at the end of 2011 by his peers, said his motivation for running for the Legislature is rooted in his desire to “do more for North Tonawanda.”
He also cited a record of backing lower tax rates in the city and development projects along Webster Street, the city’s waterfront and the downtown business corridor. Andres said he now wants to take those initiatives to the county Legislature, where a Republican majority has controlled the chamber in recent years.
“That’s priority number one,” Andres said. “We have some momentum to keep this going.”
Andres, a history teacher at North Tonawanda High School since 2002, said if elected many of the measures he pushed for as an alderman would carry to the county level, where he’d like to further tap into the resources of the Niagara River Greenway Fund.
He’d like to gain headway along Oliver Street, once the city’s vibrant commercial district, by putting a focus on beautification projects such as facade restructuring and green space and tap into the idea of tourism along the city’s untapped access to the Niagara River and the Erie Canal.
“It took 10 to 12 years to turn Webster around and downtown is now a viable place for business where people spend money,” he said. “Waterfront redevelopment, that’s what makes us different from Amherst, Clarence and East Aurora. The feeling is they’re doing better than us. But the more people we have coming coming to our waterfront will help it become a place that people want to stay and live.”
Andres said his family’s ties to politics were part of his initial interest in running for elected office. His grandfather, Ed Pawenski, was the supervisor of the early version of the Niagara County Legislature before becoming one of the founding members of Niagara County Community College. His father was a North Tonawanda police officer and his brother is a member of the county sheriff’s department.
“North Tonawanda is my home, it’s where I’ve chosen to raise my family and I look forward to the new challenge of fighting for NT in the county Legislature,” he said.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.