The Republican primary for mayor of Lockport offers a choice between management styles, the two candidates say.
Both incumbent Kenneth D. Swan and his challenger, Common Council President Michael W. Tucker, when interviewed independently, said their styles are where they most differ.
"Kenny and I are different types of guys," Tucker said. "We're not close. We never have been very close. We never have agreed on everything."
Ironically, in a sense Tucker owes his political success to Swan. Swan held the 7th Ward alderman seat in 1992-93, and when he decided to run for mayor, Tucker was able to step in and win the GOP endorsement and subsequently, the general election.
Swan appointed Tucker as council president in 1996 and has kept him in that position ever since.
Tucker said he always viewed the council as a steppingstone to the mayor's office. "I don't think you can go from the street to mayor," he said.
Swan, 58, is running for his fourth term. He is attempting to become only the second man in the city's 134-year history to win four consecutive mayoral elections.
Tucker, 42, is completing his third term as 7th Ward alderman. He said, "This is probably going to sound a little corny, but from the time I was 5, 6, or 7 years old, I've wanted to be mayor of the City of Lockport."
Swan operates his own business, Kenneth D. Swan Demolition and Excavation Inc.
Tucker is a United Auto Workers Local 686 committeeman at Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems, where he's worked for 22 years. "I represent 300 people. I look after their well-being," he said.
Effective with this election, the length of the mayor's term has been expanded from two years to four years. Next year's salary will be $36,200. By 2003, the pay will reach $40,000.
The winner of the GOP primary will take on Thomas C. Sullivan, the Democratic nominee, who will also have the ballot lines of the Independence and Conservative parties.
Tucker has no minor-party lines. "It's all or nothing for me," he said.
Swan has the Liberal and Right to Life Party endorsements, but says he hasn't decided how actively he will campaign if he loses the GOP race. "I would have to evaluate that at a later date," he said.
Swan's last two races, against Warren P. "Clip" Smith Jr. in 1995 and Cyd L. Bennett in 1997, were notable for their extreme negativity of tone, with mutual personal attacks prominently featured.
So far, this campaign has been rather quiet and free of such bombast.
Swan said he gave some thought to stepping down, but decided to run again because there is too much unfinished business.
"You get one thing done and you discover 28 more things that should have been done," he said. "The biggest problem is we have too many projects that just aren't complete. I just don't feel comfortable turning them over."
He pointed to the effort to take advantage of the Canal Corridor Initiative, a state-federal program the city wants to use to redevelop Richmond Avenue along the Erie Canal.
The $1 million grant sits idle. "There's just so much red tape," Swan sighed.
Also idle is the South Block, the vacant lot on Main Street. The city won ownership of the property in a marathon court fight with former owner Elmer A. Granchelli, but the city then sued Granchelli for damages, and the case remains unresolved.
Swan said, "We worked 20 years on the South Block. Who's to say it wouldn't fall into limbo again if we left?"
Tucker said that emphasis is one of the faults he finds with Swan. "I think Kenny looks at the city as a business, which is OK, but he doesn't look at the other side, the people side. . . . The residents here are important."
Swan frequently calls himself "the head of a $22 million corporation." He said having business experience is "imperative" for a successful mayor.
Tucker also mentioned the fact that Swan is not a Lockport native. "I'm a local guy, a hometown guy. Kenny's not from here; he's from Pennsylvania," Tucker said.
Swan pointed out that he moved to Lockport in 1959, at age 18. "Take a good look at how many city organizations I've been involved in," he said, listing a large number of clubs and service organizations.
As for not being a native, "I don't think that has any bearing whatsoever," he said.
Tucker said when he campaigns door-to-door, "I tell them I want to be accessible and accountable. I want to work with the department heads." He said Swan "micromanages."
The incumbent denies that. "I don't think people who make those statements understand what the mayor's job entails," Swan said.
He added, "I do know what's going on. . . . I understand the wastewater treatment plant and how it works. I understand budgeting."
Tucker said, "I certainly know what the job entails. I'm no rookie."
Swan also has been a de facto department head this year because of vacancies. "We've been without a public works commissioner, a highways and parks superintendent, a building superintendent," he said.
Tucker criticized what he called Swan's "people skills," but the mayor replied, "I think my people skills are better than most people's."
He pointed to the Highways and Parks Department, which Swan has been running since Superintendent Samuel N. Burkhardt resigned in January. "They have one of the best attitudes they've had out there in years," Swan claimed.
Tucker tried to defuse the perennial "full-time mayor" issue. The job's status in nowhere defined in law, but most mayors find themselves spending plenty of time at City Hall.
Tucker said his plan is to take a leave of absence from Delphi if he is elected mayor. "There are provisions in my contract that I can take a leave of absence and continue to accrue seniority," he said. "I will never leave myself open to criticism that I'm not doing the job."
But Tucker said if he has to return to work at Delphi, he will transfer to the midnight shift so he can be at City Hall during regular business hours. Tucker now works the first shift.
Swan said, "This is not a part-time job, and I think anybody who thinks so is just fooling themselves."
Tucker said planks in his platform include repairing the city's infrastructure, enforcing the housing code, helping senior citizen programs, and a general cleanup.
"I think the city's looking pretty lousy," he said.
Swan has taken personal action on that. In recent days, he's been seen taking down handbills posted on utility poles for garage sales and other long-past events.