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Dyster mum on appointments Falls mayor-elect says policies will precede naming people

Ask Paul A. Dyster how he plans to handle his transition to mayor, and he's likely to talk about his experience teaching strategic planning to military officers in the Pentagon.

He probably will outline his vision for the city as a regional leader in innovation.

And he may tell you about his research into how cities can use the Web to track potholes.

But he won't tell you -- not just yet, anyway -- whom he plans to hire for top city jobs when he takes office Jan. 1 or who will help make those decisions.

And that, he said Wednesday, is what makes him different from the city's last four mayors.

"To me, the transition is a single, integrated thing that involves trying to make certain that all of the tools are in place to do what we want to do," Dyster said.

"The tools in some cases involve policies, in some cases involve funding and in some cases involve having the right people in place to move policies forward to enact programs."

In years past, the "unspoken model" of building an administration has focused on "people first," rather than evaluating policies and goals, Dyster said.

He borrowed a football metaphor to explain.

"You're going to draft different guys if you're going to emphasize the ground game than if you're going to emphasize passing," said Dyster, a Democrat who will succeed Mayor Vince Anello. "We're trying to figure out what are the policies that we're going to pursue, what are the key projects."

During a victory party in the Fred F. Cadille Post, American Legion, Dyster's decisive win Tuesday -- he took nearly 80 percent of the vote against Candra C. Thomason, the Republican contender -- was portrayed as the beginning of a new day for Niagara Falls.

After years of dealing with a dwindling population, shuttered factories and a sense that the city should have so much more, hope is pervasive among Dyster supporters.

"I just know some things are going to be better," said Carol E. Garito, a retired nurse who has lived in Niagara Falls for 45 years. She says Dyster's work with regional organizations and his "good, moral background" set him apart.

She was quick to point out the uphill battle the city faces in turning around its stagnant tax base, high poverty levels and under-realized tourism potential.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Garito cautioned. "It might not even happen in my lifetime."

That reality has tempered Dyster's plans, but hasn't squashed the excitement of his campaign. You could hear it in Amanda E. McPherson's voice when she described passing petitions this summer.

"I rarely had to ask anybody to sign," recalled McPherson, a 21-year-old Niagara County Community College student. "They were practically grabbing them from my hands."

It has been four months since petitions were passed and seven months since Dyster stood on the front porch of his Orchard Parkway house and announced his decision to run again for mayor.

Wednesday, on his first day off in several weeks, Dyster fielded a congratulatory call from Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, in which the governor told Dyster he wanted to further discuss projects that will help Niagara Falls move forward.

Dyster also spent the day wrapping up his final campaign event. He put on a flannel shirt and headed back to the American Legion to pick up empty kegs and gather campaign signs.

Those tasks were small compared with what lies ahead.

Expectations are high, and voters will be watching closely.

Council Chairman Robert A. Anderson Jr. said people expect the next two months to be filled with talk of "transition teams, names and positions." He said he has heard little more than one rumor about who Dyster plans to hire for top city jobs.

"The first 100 days will tell," Anderson said. "If it's the same old, same old, people will say, 'I told you so.' But I'm hoping that's not the case."


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