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54 years of experience leaves Common Council, as Franczyk & Fontana retire

Mike Desmond
Outgoing Common Councilmembers Richard Fontana (2nd from left) and David Franczyk (center with plaque) stand with their colleagues one more time.

Much of the institutional memory of the Common Council left the chamber Monday after the gavel sound of adjournment. Councilmembers David Franczyk and Richard Fontana walked up the stone stairs, ending a combined 54 years in office.

"George K. Arthur said when he retired that this is is the greatest job in the world," said David Franczyk. "Now, I don't know if that's true, but it was true for me."

Franczyk and Fontana decided it was time to go and encouraged top aides to run for the seats and they were elected, Mitch Nowakowski succeeding Franczyk in the Fillmore District and Bryan Bollman succeeding Fontana in Lovejoy.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Richard Fontana accepts his plaque from Darius Pridgen.

The retirees had a verbal send off from their colleagues, including plaques to remember their years in the Council and what they meant to other members as they passed along their accumulated knowledge. Franczyk was known for his knowledge of this area's Polish-American history. Fontana was known for his financial knowledge and cutting grass and shoveling sidewalks in Lovejoy where no one else did.

Councilmember Joel Feroleto told of getting help from Fontana for a Delaware District constituent with a problem.

"He hired a contractor. The contractor lived in Lovejoy and never did the work. So I just mentioned it to Councilman Fontana," said Feroleto. "I said, 'Hey, do you know this guy who lives on this street?' The next day, the person who lives in my district called to thank me, cause, apparently, Councilman Fontana went to the guy's house in Lovejoy, said you owe someone money cause you stiffed him and you better take care of it. And it got taken care of."

Feroleto noted that kind of service is not in the City Charter.

Council President Darius Pridgen said Franczyk taught him what the job was about.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
David Franczyk (l) accepts his plaque from Darius Pridgen.

"David Franczyk not only has taught me a great deal, not only about preservation but about integrity," he said. "I really want to thank you for your leadership. You're a past president of this Council and when you leave, it's going to be like an encyclopedia leaving these chambers."

Councilmembers talk to the people who sit next to them in the chamber. Councilmember Ulysees Wingo said he could just lean to the side and ask Franczyk about the issues under discussion.

"I believe you have left an indelible impression on this entire City of Buffalo," Wingo said. "Again, he's always been that point of reference for me, when I needed information or background on something."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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