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Joseph E. Ryan, former chairman of the Erie County Medical Center Board of Managers and a longtime advocate for the disabled, has emerged as the leading candidate to serve as Buffalo's community development commissioner.

Ryan gained the inside track after University Council Member Kevin J. Helfer turned down the development post.

Mayor Masiello is expected to make a formal announcement of Ryan's appointment in the next few days.

"I've talked to the mayor and left it in his hands," Ryan said. "We've talked definitively, but I'll let him make the announcement."

If Ryan is named, he would replace Alan H. DeLisle, who is moving on to become president of the Buffalo Enterprise Development Corp.

A Masiello spokesman stopped just short of confirming Ryan's appointment while indicating that the mayor is pleased to have someone of his caliber interested in the post.

"He's incisive and decisive," said the spokesman, Stephen T. Banko III. "He's very intelligent, and he has the ability to cut through the camouflage and see the real issues."

Ryan, a Vietnam veteran who was paralyzed in a 1985 bicycling accident, is a prominent figure in the local disabled and veterans communities.

He cut his teeth, however, in the early 1970s at City Hall.

Ryan was one of the first people involved in Buffalo's community development block grant program and was instrumental in the growth of non-profit neighborhood groups.

More recently, he has been at the forefront of several housing projects sponsored by the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition.

The coalition oversaw a $2 million renovation project at Main and Best streets. A long-vacant building was converted into the area's first apartments for disabled veterans of every era.

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