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commUNITY spotlight: Buffalo's new deputy mayor Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney had an interesting road to success

'I'm a little girl from the east side who never could have imagined being here,' Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney said inside her Buffalo City Hall office.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney will tell you "with hard work, with tenacity" you can succeed. She is the new deputy mayor and chief of staff for the city of Buffalo.

Her road to success was rocky, and she has no shame in sharing her story. 

Rodriguez-Dabney was part of the first class of Buffalo Prep and attended Nichols School, but she did not graduate from the private school.

"I got into some trouble that most people from my neighborhood, a lot of people from my neighborhood, get into. I was counted out kind of early, but I think that I describe myself as tenacious, resilient, I'm a fighter," she said.

Rodriguez-Dabney earned a GED while in protective custody. She said she was in that situation because she was "a witness to a horrific murder on the East Side."

From being a mom as a teenager, to serving in the U.S. Navy, to holding one of the highest positions in City of Buffalo government, Rodriguez-Dabney remembers visiting City Hall as a little girl and meeting the late former mayor Jimmy Griffin.

She went on to graduate from University at Buffalo Law School and earn jobs based on her knowledge. 

"While I was in law school, I met this senator who says he was going to run for mayor. I didn't believe that Buffalo would ever elect a Black mayor. He asked me to send him a resume. I did, and 15 years ago, I started off as his executive assistant in this very office," Rodriguez-Dabney said.

She also served as the city of Buffalo's first chief diversity officer.

When asked to describe her new job as deputy mayor after leaving Buffalo State College, she said "my job is to make sure that city government operates the way it's supposed to operate, to make sure that systems, that services are available to citizens as they're supposed to be and part of that is also executing the mayor's vision for his last four years."

By far, her best job is being a mom.

Watch the full story as she discusses crime, how the city can tackle issues of importance to the citizens and will she run for mayor in the future.

"Are there departments where we can do things differently and services can be delivered more efficiently? Absolutely. So let's talk about how we can do that better," she said.

"There is something to be said about me having grown up on the East Side of Buffalo. I'm the first person, I'm the first woman of color, to sit in this position as chief of staff, but I'm also the first person born and raised on the East Side of Buffalo," which she says allows her to bring perspective to the table that's not been there before.

She is married to Buffalo City Court Judge Phillip Dabney Jr. 

"I want to have been a part of a team that really successfully laid the foundation for the City of Buffalo being a safe, equitable and inclusive city," and she added, "we won't do it in four years."