OLEAN, NY – Eight candidates are competing for three seats, all four-year terms, in District 8, Cattaraugus County Legislature.
The one incumbent in that race is Frank Higgins, a lifelong Olean resident first elected in 2016, who is running on the Republican and Conservative Party lines.
The other candidates for those three seats are:
Kelly Andreano, who is running on the Republican and Conservative party lines;
John Crawford, who is running on the Democratic, Libertarian and Working Families party lines;
Brian George, who is running on the Conservative Party line;
Adam Jester, who is running on the Democratic, Libertarian and Working Families party lines;
Gerard LeFeber, who is running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines;
Richard Smith, who is running on the Republican and Common Sense party lines, and
Matt Peterson-Volz, who is running on the Libertarian Party line.
Higgins sits on four legislative committees: labor; economic development and agriculture; human services and land bank committees.
Higgins, in a written statement, said he is focused on economic development and believes that the county should do more for Olean.
“The recent success of the land bank and economic development initiatives have helped move the needle in the local communities,” Higgins said. “But these successes should be grown and expanded for greater impact. It is also important that we accomplish these objectives without raising taxes and further burden to the local public.”
Andreano, who has had a 26-year career as a speech language pathologist, has served on the Olean Common Council, representing Ward 2, for five years. During her time in office, Andreano has worked to secure funds for the city’s infrastructure and has supported retaining youth and senior citizen programs, which she believes are vital for Olean families. She also created a bill that would ensure smoke-free atmospheres in all Olean parks, playgrounds and other city-owned facilities.
Andreano stated her number one reason for seeking a seat on the legislature is to make sure Olean residents receive the financial support they deserve.
“We must be cautious in spending because we need to recruit new people, businesses and provide opportunities for people to remain here,” Andreano said in a written statement. “The city and the county must remain diligent in providing much needed relief to the taxpayers of Cattaraugus County.”
Smith, a former Ward 6 alderman and common council president, said those roles gave him good experience with budgeting and negotiating. If elected to the legislature, he said those skills will help him with his goal of working with Olean businesses to get them to stay in the city and retain and create jobs.
“We’ve lost about 650 jobs,” Smith said. “I think we need to work with and try to keep what we have here, but also try to bring new business in.”
Crawford, who is Olean’s Ward 5 alderman and common council president, said he would bring financial knowledge to the legislature. He pointed to a need for a better long-term plan for fixing Olean’s infrastructure, and he addressed the $40 million surplus that Olean is facing.
“We need financial contributions from the county to help us on this effort, because as Olean goes the county goes, and if we want the county to be successful long term, the county needs to recognize Olean has to be successful,” Crawford said.
Jester, who works as a new business relationship manager at Cutco Corporation and is a business development consultant for Olean Business Development, served as Ward 7 alderman from 2014 to 2015 and was council president in 2015.
The tax burden, Jester said, is the biggest issue in Olean. He added he knows that if that burden is fixed, good opportunity will follow.
“We have some real opportunities within that county budget to not only incentivize local spending by consumers, but also to use that to subsidize property tax levy, which can meaningfully lower taxes,” he said.
LeFeber, Ward 1 alderman for two terms, is a Lutheran minister who retired from St. John’s Church in Allegany, has been involved in many organizations in Olean, serving as an Olean Rotary Club officer and president of the Genesis House board.
Because of his work as a minster, LeFeber believes his biggest strong suit is working with people with different views. And he added being a minister gave him experience working with budgets.
LeFeber also said blighted housing is the big issue in Olean and referred to the land bank as “a really good avenue” for a remedy.
“It’s been my experience that in any neighborhood, if you have one or two houses it's like one rotten apple in the bunch.” LeFeber said
Peterson-Volz serves as the vice-chairman for Cattaraugus County Libertarian Party and in a written statement said his goal is to provide a voice for local politics in Olean.
“Too often people in our county have limited information regarding their local representatives’ moves in office,” he said. “I aim to be that voice for Olean and for Cattaraugus County. I want to bridge the generational divide and to get the younger people of our county involved and knowledgeable.”
George did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.
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