Share this article

print logo


John Kuryak describes his life as "very interesting" these days.

That might be a bit of an understatement because Kuryak is running for mayor of Lackawanna while holding a full-time job with the city and helping plan his Oct. 16 wedding.

While the mayor's job is by no means won, Kuryak's defeat of Mayor Kathleen M. Staniszewski in last week's Democratic primary was a huge boost since 9,000 of the city's 13,000 voters are Democrats.

Staniszewski remains on the ballot as the Conservative Party candidate and insists she will work all the harder to keep the position she has held for eight years.

Kuryak, 29, said he'll continue to campaign hard, walking the streets with a message he says "is critical (of the mayor) but never negative."

Kuryak is a graduate of Lackawanna High School and a 1992 graduate of Clarkson University with a degree in civil engineering.

He was hired by Mobil Oil Corp. right out of Clarkson and was working in Fairfax, Va., when Mobil eliminated 7,000 jobs, including the one he had held for three weeks.

He returned home and did some odd jobs, including tending bar, until obtaining a Civil Service job as senior engineering aide with the city in March 1994.

Staniszewski appointed him city engineer in April 1996, and he held that job until June when he resigned to run for mayor and returned to his former city job.

Kuryak has been criticized for what some feel is a lack of loyalty to the person who appointed him, and he acknowledged that was a question in his own mind.

"But I saw other department heads who are not qualified and some who don't even live in the city," he said. "My first loyalty is to the City of Lackawanna. I think I can do a better job."

Four of the five City Council members support him, and if he should be elected, he said he hopes he would continue "to have a good working relationship with the Council but not to be buddy-buddy" with members of a separate branch of government.

Some also have questioned his friendship with John Makeyenko, who helped with his campaign and is a member of the Lackawanna Board of Education.

"John gave me a lot of moral support, but he's only one of seven members of the School Board," Kuryak pointed out.

On Oct. 16, Kuryak will marry Karen Cornish of Hamburg, an employee of Equifax of Amherst.

She had some early doubts about him running for mayor, but on primary night, "I think she was happier than I was," Kuryak said.

Their honeymoon will be limited to a four-day Caribbean cruise, with the promise of another week-long trip somewhere this winter.

Kuryak's sister, Kim, and father, John M., both live in Lackawanna. His mother is deceased.

For a time, it appeared Staniszewski would face no serious opposition, and Kuryak said he thinks she might have taken him lightly.

But a campaign committee led by Sue Bokan and Denise Kapa and made up of 30 to 40 core supporters went to work, and "it snowballed," Kuryak said.

When a chicken barbecue Kuryak threw in mid-August attracted more than 400 people, the mayor knew she had a fight on her hands, but Kuryak said the momentum kept building and peaked on primary night when he managed an 87-vote win.

There are no comments - be the first to comment