OLEAN, NY – Vernon Robinson Jr. told TAPinto Greater Olean he couldn’t quite describe his feelings after being named Ward 6 Alderman.
“I was definitely excited and anxious for the moment, but when I received the support of all the other aldermen and women, I was in awe,” Robinson said. “I really didn’t know what to say to that.”
He said he had a moment where he doubted his ability for the post, but that feeling passed. Now, he is ready to help his community.
“I kept my composure and accepted this new position as a new challenge and a responsibility to do the best for my community,” Robinson said. “I wanted to sit and get my feet wet a bit by observing. But with so much going on within our city, I feel like I need to jump out ready and willing.”
Mayor William J. Aiello appointed Robinson to fill the Ward 6 vacancy created when Alderman Ron DiPolito resigned. The Common Council confirmed Robinson's appointment during its July 28 meeting.
Robinson, who lives on Washington Street is the storekeeper of warehouse operations for National Grid, where he has 30 years of supervisory experience, covering Olean, Franklinville and Wellsville. He is a decorated, honorably discharged veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He also is the author of a book, A Change Is Gonna Come: A Memoir of Coping with the Harsh Realities of Life.
The primary issue he would like to tackle as alderman is employment in Olean.
“I feel like if we bring in some business for this region to replace some of the companies that left the area, we would help elevate the work status of some people here,” Robinson said. “Once people are making money, paying bills, paying taxes, and more secure with themselves, the entire city will benefit.”
Robinson also said he plans on starting police reform and diversity committees as well as safety-related parking changes.
His position as alderman may affect his job at National Grid, but the storekeeper position is what takes care of his family and “family comes first.”
Additionally, Robinson said his military experience may impact his position as alderman.
“I feel like my life and work experience will contribute most to my new position,” Robinson said. “I believe some of my past experiences within the military may help in how to deal with the stress and not caving to pressure. Like I always tell people, ‘I have big shoulders… I can carry the weight!’ ”
Three of his fellow aldermen also gave TAPinto Greater Olean their thoughts on how Robinson will perform.
Ward 5 Alderman John Crawford said Robinson will make a great addition to the council.
“I believe that he possesses the knowhow to come into our organization and add value immediately,” Crawford said. “I look forward to working with him, and together we can help Olean move forward.”
Ward 2 Alderman Jason Panus said that although he and Robinson have only spoken briefly, "he seems to be a very well-rounded person who also, from what I've been told, performed exceptionally well during the interview process.”
Ward 4 Alderman Kevin Dougherty said Robinson was prepared and answered questions well during the interview for Ward 6. Dougherty added that he got the feeling that Robinson is an honest person.
“The community backs him,” Dougherty said. “Plus, serving your country, it’s not something that goes away. You can’t really take that out of a person. He served our country in the past and now he’s going to serve this local municipality.”
Robinson told TAPinto Greater Olean who pushed him the most into trying for alderman: his wife.
“She knows my heart and knows that I was interested,” Robinson said. “The problem was I didn’t want to jump. Kinda like the kid that gets on the diving board for the first time. I can swim (but) I just didn’t want to take that jump, so she pushed me. I was treading water last week. I can honestly say I’m swimming now, but I hope to be doing freestyle and backstroke before too long.”
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