OLEAN, NY -- William Aiello and Linda Witte are facing off again in the race for mayor. Four years ago, Aiello defeated Witte, who was then the incumbent mayor.
Aiello, a Republican, vows “progress not promises” in his campaign for re-election.
Aiello said he is proud of the progress Olean has made since he was elected mayor. He said teamwork of community organizations such as the Olean Common Council, the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce, Olean Business Development and non-profit and religious organizations has contributed to this success.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about the City of Olean.”
Witte serves on the Olean Common Council and said she has concerns about the city’s spending. She said there are bills to pay that the council has barely discussed, and she fears the local government is not as transparent as it should be.
Witte said she also is concerned with the issues caused by absentee landlords and drug abuse in the area. She also is concerned with growing the tax base. “About 45 percent of our population is tax exempt,” she said.
Aiello, who was born and raised in the community, had a job at a local business owned by his family and spent 32 years working in the Olean Police Department.
“I found I really enjoyed working with and talking to people,” he said.
Aiello was elected a Cattaraugus County legislator in 2008. He ran for mayor in 2010, but did not win the primary election for the Republican ticket. Aiello served a second term as county legislator until 2013 when he challenged Witte for mayor and won.
Witte said her interest in running for political office began when she attended a public hearing and members of the public were told they could not speak or offer any suggestions. The incident made her feel as though elected officials were going to do what they wanted and not what was best for the public.
Thus, she decided to run for office “just to be a voice for folks that didn’t feel like they had them,” she said.
Witte served as a Cattaraugus County legislator from 2004 until she took office as mayor in 2010.
As mayor, Witte said she was proud to have started projects and won grant money to work on the city’s infrastructure needs and to improve streets. Witte, who began the “Walkable Olean” campaign to upgrade North Union Street, noted the project is in its second phase now and that the addition of roundabouts and improvements to the road have made it safer for pedestrians.
Aiello recently put together a beautification team to improve the appearance of North Union Street by planting flowers in preparation for spring.
If re-elected, Aiello’s priority for the next four years will be to control taxes.
“The number one goal is to keep taxes as low as possible -- as affordable as possible,” he said.
Aiello also plans to continue work on the city’s infrastructure and reinforce the team-approach to city management and improvement.
In her campaign, Witte has focused on getting the city back in good financial standing and having more accountability for public offices.
“Back to transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability -- what government is supposed to be about,” she said.
The mayor’s race is the only contested election in Olean this year. Four incumbent aldermen are running unopposed -- Kelly J. Andreano in Ward 2, Kevin M. Dougherty in Ward 4, Nate D. Smith in Ward 6, and Brian J. George in Ward 7.