Help Wanted: New University District Common Council Member

BUFFALO, NY - The process of finding a new representative for the University District on the Buffalo Common Council has begun, after the resignation of long time council member Bonnie Russell.

Russell, who represented the district for a decade and who was the only female on the council, resigned to take a position as a legal secretary, working for Family Court Judge Mary Giallanza Carney.

The resignation was not unexpected, as Russell had expressed publicly her desire to join the staff of Giallanza Carney, a long time friend, following Giallanza Carney's election to the bench in November.

At her final Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Russell, was recognized for 10 years of service as she celebrated her last day as a city lawmaker.

Russell was quite candid on Friday, saying her decision was based primarily on "making more money", explaining that the move will secure a better financial picture for her when she eventually retires.

"I'm 55 this year, and my judge has a term year term... I'll be 65 and my last step increase in that time will put me at a higher salary than I ever would have been with the Buffalo Common Council," Russell told WGRZ-TV.

It is now up to the eight remaining council members to appoint Russell's replacement, for which there are a few prerequisites, according to Common Council President Darius Pridgen.

"They have to be a democrat, they have to have lived in University District for a year, and be 18 years of age or older," said Pridgen, explaining that the city charter mandates the appointee come from the same political party as the departed Russell.

Democratic Committee members from the University District will meet Saturday January 18, to endorse a candidate, and forward their choice for the Common Council to consider, according to Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner.

"We will ask them to to support the endorsed candidate," Zellner told Two on Your Side. "In the past sometimes they've taken the endorsement, and sometimes they haven,t."

Pridgen is living proof of that, recalling that four years ago, when he was the endorsed democratic candidate for an open seat on the Council, lawmakers voted to appoint Curtis Haynes instead.

"So it's totally up to the Common Council," Pridgen said.

However, anyone interested has to act they have only until the end of business on Tuesday, January 14, to submit a resume to: Buffalo City Clerk Office, 13th Floor, Buffalo City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York 14202.

Pridgen said the Council will begin interviewing candidates on January 22, and hopes to have the new University District member sworn in by the end of the month.

"The minute someone has five votes, that's when it happens. I don't believe in leaving these seats open for a very long time because people need representation."

Meanwhile, Russell's former office continues to operate without her

"The office is open, someone is there, and we're overseeing that office every day in order to continue to serve the needs of residents in the district," said Pridgen.

Besides being the longest serving member on the current Common Council, Russell was also its only female member.

"The replacement for her should be whoever is qualified," said Pridgen, when asked if deference should be given to a female candidate.

"I don't think gender is a factor," agreed Zellner.

And neither does Russell.

"It should be a person willing to work themselves to death on behalf of that district...that's what I'd like to see as their constituent," she said.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dooley O'Rourke.

Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2



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