City Council Prepares For Change

For the first time since 2007, there will be two new members joining the Jamestown City Council.

When Republicans Tamara Dickey, Ward 3, and Brent Sheldon, Ward 1, join the council in January, it will be the first time in six years the group will have more than one change. Dickey and Sheldon will be replacing Michael Taylor and Stephen Szwejbka. Both councilmen did not seek re-election this year.

The only change in the group since 2008 was when Democrat Marie Carrubba was appointed earlier this year. She was selected to finish Vince DeJoy’s term, who was appointed development director in February. Carrubba won her first election in November to continue as a member of City Council.

In 2007, Democrats Maria Jones, Ward 5; Greg Rabb, council president and At-Large; George Spitale, At-Large; and Paul Whitford, Ward 6; all were elected to council for the first time. Also, it was DeJoy’s first election to the group. However, since then there have been almost no council races for the two-year position. In 2009, all members of the council ran unopposed. In 2011, only DeJoy faced competition when Dan Johnson ran against the incumbent.

Republican Anthony Dolce, Ward 2 councilman, has the longest current tenure on City Council. He has served 18 years and was re-elected to his 10th term in November. Dolce said he doesn’t expect as much of a shake up this time with only two new members as there was six years ago. In 2007, there were five new members elected who were all part of the Democratic majority joining the group.

”It was a little challenging at first. They were the majority, so Greg (Rabb) became council president and then there were also new committee heads,” Dolce said. ”I don’t think this turnover will have as big of an impact on us. There are only two new members, and one of them has experience.”

Dolce is referring Sheldon who was part of City Council in 1994-95. Sheldon and Dolce were both elected to the council for the first time in 1993. Sheldon lost his re-election campaign in 1995, and then couldn’t run again for council because of state election laws.

”Until recently I could not run for public office because my job was partially funded with federal money and thus fell under the Hatch Act. A 2013 ruling from the New York State Board of Elections decried that the position must be 100 percent federally funded to preclude a person from running for office,” Sheldon said in his election announcement in September.

Rabb said he is looking forward to the new members joining the group.

”Well, obviously it is a change, and change is usually a good thing,” he said. ”It was unusual for all of us to be together for such a long time without any changes. I’m looking forward to hearing new ideas from the new members. I’m curious to see what they bring up. They see things that are different in their neighborhoods, and have different life experiences than I do.”

Rabb said he is not worried that bipartisan politics will start playing a role in decisions with the new Republican council members. The Republican Party now has four members: Dickey, Dolce, Sheldon and Kimberly Ecklund, At-Large.

”Over the last few years, folks on both sides of the aisle have been working hard to do their best. There is stuff (partisan politics) like that during the campaign, but now it is time to put that away and do our job.”

Dolce agrees with Rabb that partisan politics will not be a game played by City Council.

”A vast majority of decisions, like with the budget process, are not politically motivated. I suspect they will come with open eyes and do what is right for their part of the city, and do what is best for the whole city,” Dolce said.