It was no secret why many people were present at the World War II Vets Club Thursday, but if there were any doubts about the purpose of the gathering Councilman-at-Large A.J. Dolce made it clear.
"It has been an honor listening to you, working with you, and serving you as councilman the past eight years, but I'm here tonight, to announce my candidacy for mayor of the City of Dunkirk," Dolce stated in making his candidacy official.
Dolce was endorsed by the Dunkirk Democratic City Committee in a close race with Andrew Woloszyn and is now set to take on the incumbent mayor, Richard Frey. Frey is in his third term and will have served 10 years as mayor when his current term expires Dec. 31.
AJ Dolce mayoral video
Dolce, and his assembled supporters, believe it is time for a change at the top.
"During my tenure on council I have attempted, time and again, to work with an administration that isn't willing to listen, discuss or accept ideas different from their own," Dolce said. "I look at this race as an opportunity to change the way Dunkirk conducts business. Far too many of us in this room realize that what is being done now simply isn't good enough.
"Government shouldn't just be for the benefit of the few; family and friends. Dunkirk's administration should lead, not bully; should be fiscally responsible, not financially reckless; and should not be satisfied with a band-aid approach to all of our problems.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Pictured is the flyer announcing the official kickoff of A.J. Dolce’s mayoral campaign.
"But most importantly, Dunkirk's citizens deserve an administration that is willing to listen and respect the insights and opinions of others."
To accomplish what he called the "difficult task that lies ahead," Dolce called for a clear vision for the future.
"One that centers around an administration that has the ability and willingness to keep the council and community involved in the decision-making process and that has the conviction of character to make decisions in the public's best interest, not in personal and political games," he continued. "I am proud of my accomplishments thus far, and as your mayor I will continue to focus my efforts on regionalism, fiscal responsibility, and infrastructure improvements.
"Dunkirk's quality of life isn't just about feel-good festivals and community events. It is our roads, it is our neighborhoods and it's the vital services that we need on a daily basis."
Dolce had a promise for his supporters that was met with loud applause.
"I'm also proud to say that as your mayor I will remain committed to serving all of the taxpayers and residents of Dunkirk," he stated. "Thank you for your past support and I would be honored for your future assistance in moving Dunkirk forward.
Dolce was introduced by James Rozen with Dolce then introducing fellow candidates in attendance. On hand were at-large candidate Stephanie Kiyak and Andy Gonzalez (Third Ward).
"Legislator Ahlstrom had stopped in but he was working so he had to take off and finally I need to recognize a current councilwoman, Rose Floramo," Dolce said. "Rose has decided to retire but I had to publicly say I'm going to miss you. You've been a great influence on me all these years and I really appreciate your support."
Other Democratic candidates in attendance included City Treasurer Mark Woods, Clerk Board of Assessors Thomas Mleczko, Assessor Anthony Porpiglia and First Ward candidate Greg Sek.
Former Democratic officeholders present included legislator Ronald Szot along with council members Donald Brisky, Leonard Schrantz, Mark Speziale Jr., Janet Jankowski-George and current Dunkirk City Democratic Committee Chairman Frank Gawronski.
Gawronski was happy with the party's choice.
"I think we're very lucky to have somebody of A.J.'s caliber who's willing to run for office," the chairman said. "If he's successful I think he'll do a good job - he's got the right motivation ... he's a very good candidate.
"It was a good mix of old and young. It ought to be interesting."
The general election is set for Nov. 8.
Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org