By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Councilman Glenn Choolokian is now Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian.
The new chairman was sworn in at Monday’s council meeting standing with his wife Pamela and 11-year-old son Gadge. His 13-year-old daughter, Hope, was stuck home in bed sick.
“I think it’s a great honor,” Choolokian said. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I’m going to just work very hard to make people proud of us, the city council and this team with (Mayor Paul Dyster.)”
Choolokian was voted to the chairman’s seat by a 3-2 vote, defeating Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti. Choolokian was nominated by Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. and voted for by Councilman Sam Fruscione, Anderson and himself. Grandinetti was nominated by Councilman Charles Walker. She received votes form Walker and herself.
Choolokian said the council will need to work as a team to get through what promises to be another tough year with the city’s fiscal outlook being dependent on the outcome of the arbitration process in the dispute over the gaming compact between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state.
“We’re going to have to look for more opportunities for Niagara Falls and try to hit home with the things we do,” Choolokian said. “We’ve got to reanalyze things and see what the priorities are and then we’ve just got to move forward.”
Choolokian said that he and outgoing chairman Fruscione often align on issues and constituents can expect a similar style of leadership.
“It’s like we switched chairs,” Choolokian said. “Nothing’s going to change.”
Grandinetti said she was seeking the position so that she could try to get the council moving in the same direction.
“I know we’re not always going to get along, we’re not always going to agree on everything, but it’s become rather divisive,” Grandinetti said. “I think it has a negative impact on the city.”
Grandinetti hoped to be able to move forward with some issues that are important to her — consolidation of the city’s Community Development and Economic Development departments, further development downtown — and thought she could do so more effectively as chair.
“I thought that, being in a leadership position, I might be able to facilitate some of the things that I think would be good for the community,” she said.
Walker, the longest tenured council member at 16 years, said he nominated Grandinetti because she is entering the last year of her term and has yet to have the opportunity to hold the chairmanship.
“I felt like she deserved an opportunity to serve,” Walker said, “It’s nothing personal against Glenn.”
Walker said the chairmanship is shared by council members to create a sense of balance.
“Most of my council members that I’ve served with were given an opportunity to serve,” Walker said. “It’s sort of like a gentlemen’s agreement type of thing.”
Walker said Choolokian has three more years in his term and will have more opportunities to be chairman.
“This has nothing to do with his ability at all,” Walker said. “It just has to do with opportunity. This may be [Grandinetti’s] last year.”
Fruscione said that in his eight years on the council he has had a different experience. Only about half of the council members he has served with held the position of chairman.
“Some councilmen do a lot of work and put a lot of time in here and those are the ones who tend to rise up to the leadership positions,” Fruscione said.
Fruscione is satisfied with his accomplishments as chairman and is confident in Choolokian’s abilities, he said.
“He’ll lead us right in the right direction,” Fruscione said. “He’ll keep checks and balances in place and hold costs down in city government.”