Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 14, 2013

CITY DESK: So long to the 'Silver Fox'

Niagara Gazette — A resident attending a meeting of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency’s board of directors once referred to outgoing Chairman Henry Sloma as the “Silver Fox.”

It seemed a fitting nickname for the white-haired, 69-year-old Sloma, a guy who never held elected public office but by appointment to various boards often found himself at the center of key issues facing the community. 

The man others know as “Mickey” garnered his share of headlines over the years, making the most waves when he stood by a plan, criticized by many, to offer a lucrative tax break to the AES plant in Somerset. 

He could be a hard case to deal with at times, but then that’s not unusual when it comes to people who rise to his level of influence in government and politics. 

I called him once to ask about his relationship with current Niagara County Community College trustee Bonnie Gifford. At the time, one of our competitors had already suggested in print that Gifford was a lock for the NCCC post, largely because of her connections to Sloma. 

After a few choice words, he hung up the telephone on me that day, suggesting his personal business was none of mine and that he never thought the Gazette would sink to the level of tabloid journalism. 

Things eventually settled down between the two of us. I think. 

In 2011, when the Niagara Gazette embarked on a year-long series aimed at stirring up some conversation about why the economy of the Niagara Falls area was so downtrodden for so long, Sloma happily sat down to discuss the situation and offer his thoughts. 

It was evident to me that whether you agreed or disagreed with his position on things, Sloma brought a level of passion to whatever it was he was doing, be it economic development or his work with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. 

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