By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda elections set for the fall are beginning to take shape as both Republicans and Democrats are announcing their bids for both the mayoral and council seats.
Rick Davis, a former two-term city councilman, has interviewed for the Democratic endorsement and hopes to challenge Republican Mayor Ron Pilozzi for the second time this fall.
Davis, a meteorologist, lost to Pilozzi in 2009 by just 150 votes.
“With such a close margin, I felt that I should run again,” Davis said.
Although Davis would not comment on specific issues until he is named as the official Democratic candidate, he did express dissatisfaction with the city’s state.
“I am not pleased with the way things are going in the city,” he said. “I loved my time on the council, and I miss being able to help people. I want to get back in.”
But Pilozzi, who is currently wrapping up his second mayoral term, is confident about the race, and said his achievements over the past four years will carry him through the election season.
“I kept my promises — just look at the parks,” Pilozzi said. “We put $2 million into the parks, the pavilion is complete ... we also have the shoreline erosion project, the kayak launch and the latest with the ADA accessible fishing pier.”
Pilozzi also pointed to his 16 years in government experience, his career at General Motors and the city’s low tax levy increases.
“What I foresee is nothing but good things going forward if people will be willing to give me another couple years,” he said.
Two school board officials are hoping to make the move to city council politics this November. Lynn Casal, a former City of Tonawanda school board member who resigned in January, announced last week that she will challenge First Ward Councilwoman Heather Little.
Chair of the Tonawanda Democratic Committee Gayle Syposs said the committee interviewed both Casal and Little, and will announce their endorsement next month. If Casal is not chosen, she said she is prepared to challenge Little in a primary.
On the Republican side, Chuck Gilbert, a former one-term councilman and candidate for the state Assembly, will also vie for the First Ward seat and has already won the party’s endorsement.
Gilbert works as an electrician and pointed to both his involvement in the community and his experience on the council.
“The city deserves someone who actually has a private sector job and knows what it is like to struggle, and will use that to fight for what’s best and right for the city,” he said.
The current school board president, Jackie Smilinich, will also try her hand at a council seat and is hoping to take the Democratic endorsement from current Second Ward Councilman Blake Boyle — who has held the seat for 10 years.
That endorsement, too, will be announced next month.
Despite his experience, Boyle expressed some worry that the committee may endorse Smilinich after he cited the district’s impending tax increase and financial struggles.
But Smilinich said her board experience will lend toward her ability to serve on the council.
“I believe that the experience I bring from the six years on the board and my past positions ... along with my contacts in and outside of government will greatly enable me to make the necessary decisions required to develop this community,” she said in a statement.
Jon Juliano, a political newcomer, will also throw his hat in the race and has won the Republican endorsement for the Second Ward race. Juliano said he works at an accounts receivable company, where he manages the day-to-day operations of the business.
“I was born and raised in Tonawanda, and I see the potential of this city,” Juliano. “I believe some of our current council members don’t share those far-reaching views ... we have a lot of stale ideas, and we need someone new and fresh to bring families and businesses back to Tonawanda.”
But Boyle argued that he is “the only one that wants to get things moving” on the council.
In the Third Ward, Democrat Richard Slisz, who won the last election by just one vote, will again run for his council seat. A Republican challenger for the Third Ward has not been chosen, the chair of the City of Tonawanda Republican Committee, Christine Pilozzi, said.
The current Democratic Fourth Ward councilman, Tyler Kossow, will not run for a second term due to job obligations. Jenna Koch, another newcomer who works in human resources, is hoping to step in for him and has interviewed for the Democratic endorsement, Syposs announced.
Brian Jopp has won the Republican endorsement for the Fourth Ward race. He owns a local video productions business, Ghostline Entertainment, and is another newcomer.
“He is not a political person, but he is very involved in our community and is interested in taking part,” Christine Pilozzi said. Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150