"What's a trustee?"
That was the question Bill Rogowski asked during his introduction to politics in the basement of Henry R. Gabryszak's Sloan home.
More than three decades later, he can relate his experience as a village trustee, mayor, Town Board member and tax receiver.
"I've been in so many campaigns," Rogowski said.
But now he has put away the campaign signs for good. At the end of the year, the tax receiver's job, which he has held for about two years, will be folded into the town clerk's duties.
William P. Rogowski will leave public office and Cheektowaga.
He and his wife will go to Florida in mid-January for the winter. They sold their Cheektowaga house and plan to spend their summers in a new home in Alden.
A Rogowski will remain on the roster of elected officials in Cheektowaga. James Rogowski, Bill's son, won a seat on the Town Board, where his father served for 21 1/2 years.
The elder Rogowski had been Sloan recreation director for six years when he got the call from Gabryszak, the former Sloan village and Cheektowaga town justice.
Gabryszak and others asked him to run for trustee, and after learning what the job entailed, he was in. He won the trustee election and two years later beat incumbent Mayor Henry Moskal. He served as mayor until 1980.
He became a Cheektowaga Town Board member in 1980 and didn't seem to mind bucking his Democratic Party.
"I lost three elections in my career, but I won a lot more," Rogowski, 61, said.
Rogowski ran unsuccessfully for State Senate and twice for town supervisor. The second time he tried to unseat Dennis Gabryszak, the son of the man who gave him his start.
"We didn't always agree on stands. I'm sure Billy thought what he was doing was best for his constituents," Dennis Gabryszak said. "He spent a long time serving the residents of Sloan and Cheektowaga."
Rogowski taught technology and driver education in West Seneca for 34 years, retiring in 2001. He put his softball spikes away a couple of years ago after knee surgery. He had played for 50 years, including a stint in spring training for the Miami Marlins, farm team of the Philadelphia Phillies.
If he has a regret about his public service career, which spanned four decades, it was the hours spent at night meetings and weekend functions.
"It took a lot of time away from my kids and my wife," Rogowski said.
The only regular meetings he wants to have now are on the golf course, where he plans to spend some of his free time. He would also like to write a book about why good candidates don't run for public office.
"The only thing I'm running for is the nearest door," he said.