Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.
Mark C. Poloncarz
Job Title: County Executive
Town: Buffalo, though Lackawanna will always be my hometown.
Education: Lackawanna High School, 1985; bachelor of arts, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1989; law degree, University of Toledo College of Law, 1997.
What's one thing people don't know about you?
I have an extensive comic book collection dating back to my childhood days and occasionally will pick up a new book or two today. I think most people think I am a reserved “stuffed shirt” type of guy, but at heart I am a Lackawanna kid who grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy and drew my favorite comic book heroes along the side of my notebooks in school. I guess that might make me a nerd, but it is who I am and I am happy with it.
You coach youth hockey. Do you have a favorite memory of hockey from when you were growing up?
Going to a hockey tournament in Fort Wayne, Ind., when I played for the Lackawanna squirt team in 1977. My father was one of the coaches (the only year he coached). Our team won the local championship, and we played in that travel tourney. I still remember playing mini-stick hockey in the hallway of the hotel with my friends. It is neat to watch the kids I coach today go through the same experiences 35 years later. I hope they have the same good memories.
What's your favorite restaurant?
Curly’s Restaurant in Lackawanna. Not only does it have great food and people but it has been a pleasure to watch Kirk and Krista’s success as I remember when they converted Krista’s old family bar into the restaurant. Hard work paid off for them, and the rest of us get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Who is your political hero?
I don’t have just one but actually three: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Robert F. Kennedy. They all were champions for a just and fair society, which is a bit ironic considering all came from a life of privilege. I take inspiration from each. A quote from RFK sits on my desk: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” That was my motto last year when almost everyone said I could not win but I ran for executive anyway.
What's the worst part of your job?
Dealing with the myriad of agencies and bureaucracies that impact county government but are not accountable to local citizens. I knew what I was getting myself into having served as comptroller for six years. It is just frustrating to see the impact that non-elected, career agency officials and others can have and stall the changes necessary to make this region the place we know it can be.
It is not just bad elected officials that have cursed our region in the past, but poor leadership in other sectors as well, including the private sector. At least I can try to make a positive impact for today and tomorrow. Once again, better to attempt systemic change and fail greatly than to never try at all.