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Eva Hassett, 42, chief of staff, City of Buffalo

You ride a Harley?

I came to riding motorcycles a little bit differently. I was first attracted to the clothes that women wear who get to ride motorcycles. I had occasion to watch a friend's child race at Daytona Beach. As it turned out, I went during Bike Week, the biggest rally of half a million motorcycles. They have vendors and booths everywhere selling everything from parts to clothing. It was sort of like Halloween for grown-ups. ... I don't ride all the time, but I enjoy it a great deal. The first thing I noticed was how much you can smell. You feel the air and the changes in temperature. Of course it is dangerous, and that's something everyone has to take into account. It's not the speed that ever attracted me. It's more the feeling, the sensory input.

How do you unwind in winter?

I have as much fun as I possibly can and balance what I need to do to take care of myself. I have enough life under my belt to know what it's like when you don't take care of yourself and don't have time for fun. I enjoy skiing, and that's really important. I spend a lot of time with my friends. I like to go hear music. My dad had a jazz club when I was a kid. I enjoy music of whatever kind. Creativity, whether musical or artistic, is real important.

You are exciteable, aren't you?

Absolutely. It's one of my best qualities. I would call it enthusiastic.

What stamp would you hope to leave on the city?

One would be things you might be able to see. The other might be things that happened. I feel very very strongly that this year, with all the fiscal problems many governments face, that this is an opportunity the likes of which we have never seen. For the first time, with them in trouble, they might actually do something about things like pension reform. The vote this summer to change the number of council members, to me, is a signal the electorate wants to see change. My hope would be that if we were to look back, we would see this time as a really, really progressive time. It's a huge opportunity.

And what might we be able to see?

The things that are most dear to me, personally, are the neighborhoods, whether they're about food or street festivals or art or theater or music. The fact that you can walk down the street and run into somebody. To me, that's the perfect neighborhood life. If I got my way 10 years from now, it would be to multiply those experiences around the city. Some of that has happened and it gives me great hope that individual neighborhoods would have great pride, that cultural diversity would be celebrated. How do you empower people to be themselves and be part of the fabric?

Well said.

I think that Buffalo is so ready to be who it is and celebrate it and have fun with it. You reach a point in your life when you realize you are fine the way you are. Buffalo has a habit of comparing itself to other places, and it's not that we don't need improvement, one can always be better. But we have so much here that we should just be ourselves.

What moment in life would you like to revisit?

The last time I got to talk to my father. I didn't know it was going to be the last time. I don't anguish over it, but I guess if I had it to do again, it might be different.

Do you have a favorite word?

I always liked enthusiasm. This is so queer, but I always did because its roots have to do with spirituality, enthios. The idea is the enthusiasm within. I always think about that as being able to see the presence of beautiful things in other people. I used to like the word wasps, because of the sound at the end. That's like a little kid thing for me. You can't stop saying it.

If not Buffalo, where would you live?

I don't know. Probably somewhere like Buffalo. I didn't go to Atlanta. The reason I came back to Buffalo was New Haven. I loved it. Wonderful ethnicity and great neighborhoods are always attractive to me. Older cities are more complex.

Lightning Round:

Casino -- Concerned.

Winter -- Great.

Dog -- Need.

Marriage -- Sure.

Leadership -- Critical.

Labor Unions -- Leadership.

-- Jane Kwiatkowski