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Rochester's new mayor grew up here Canisius alum, trustee R. Carlos Carballada also known as brother of Ch. 7's Rick Azar

Rochester's new acting mayor -- its third leader in as many weeks -- has strong ties to the Buffalo area, having grown up here and become a prominent Canisius College alumnus with a strong bloodline to Western New York sports broadcasting.

R. Carlos Carballada, 75, was named Rochester's acting mayor Tuesday morning, following the abrupt resignation of acting Mayor Thomas S. Richards.

Rochester's new leader was born in Brooklyn but grew up on Buffalo's Ellicott Street and later Ashland Avenue. He graduated from the former St. Louis School, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in 1952 and Canisius College in 1956.

So how are Rochester folks reacting to a man with strong Buffalo roots as their new acting mayor?

"I haven't told them," Carballada quipped Tuesday.

For years, Rochester was known as more of a white-collar town than Buffalo. But Carballada noted that both cities face the same challenges, trying to retain jobs, businesses and population, while still maintaining services and security in the inner core of the city.

"I think they're much more similar than they are different," he said. "And I think we're more alike than we were years ago."

Carballada was a longtime banker and educator who has been serving as Rochester's neighborhood and business development commissioner.

He is best known here for his longtime involvement at Canisius College, where he currently serves as vice chairman of the board of trustees.

He has remained active at the college, both as a trustee and chairman of its national "Legacy of Leadership" campaign. He and his wife gave $1 million to Canisius to create the Virginia and R. Carlos Carballada '56 Scholarship Fund.

"Carlos has been, simply, the best of the best in the Canisius alumni," college President John J. Hurley said Tuesday. "He brings a degree of passion and leadership to whatever he undertakes."

In addition to his long banking career that included stints at M&T Bank, Rochester's Central Trust Co. and First National Bank of Rochester, Carballada served for 21 years on the state Board of Regents. He was named to that post in 1978 and served as chancellor from 1991 to 1994, before retiring in 1999.

Longtime Buffalo-area residents also might recognize him as the brother of former Channel 7 sports director Rick Azar.

Azar grew up as Rick Carballada, before choosing his on-air surname by looking for names consistent with his ethnic background. Noting the many Spanish families with names like Salazar, he took the final four letters as his name.

Carlos Carballada noted that he often was asked how he could have a brother named Azar. "I used to tell people that I didn't like [the name] Azar, so I changed it to Carballada," he joked.

In 2006, Carballada brought his nearly 50 years of business savvy and success to his new job as economic development commissioner for Rochester, according to a profile in a Canisius College publication.

Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy, the former Rochester mayor who recruited Carballada to join his administration there, called him "an icon in the [Rochester] business community."

Richards resigned as acting mayor over questions about his legitimacy for the position and whether he would violate the federal Hatch Act by running for the permanent mayor's post in a special election this spring, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.

Richards had replaced Duffy, after Duffy was sworn in as lieutenant governor Jan. 1.

Carballada expects to remain acting mayor for a couple of months, before the special election for a permanent mayor.

As one person wrote on the Democrat & Chronicle website Tuesday, "Rochester has had more mayors in the past month than dictators overthrown in military coups in Latin and South America."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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