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DiPietro, Potenza square off on issues

East Aurora's mayoral race between incumbent David DiPietro and challenger Heidi Potenza has turned high-stakes, as the candidates duke it out over issues such as development, government leadership and integrity.

In some respects, the two are the feature of an unlikely faceoff in Tuesday's village elections. DiPietro and Potenza had a long-standing friendship long before their paths crossed into politics. When Potenza was elected village trustee two years ago, DiPietro tapped her as his deputy mayor.

Now, they're facing one another in a nonpartisan election that early on had been a three-way mayoral race until Trustee Elizabeth Cheteny dropped out.

Potenza's run for mayor was a surprise, even to herself, since she initially planned to run again for her trustee post. If she loses her mayoral bid, she is no longer on the board.

An employee of her parents' employee benefits consulting firm, Potenza, 37, has been pounding signs in lawns with her young boys in tow.

"I don't have the money to send out weekly mailers or do billboards," she said. "I don't think people want a slick campaign, but a homegrown person."

DiPietro, a two-term mayor and former three-year trustee, is trying to reach voters via a large billboard at the edge of the village on Olean Road, complete with his picture and Web site listing, not far from the dry-cleaning business he owns.

"It just seems like you need to get your message out more and more, even in little East Aurora," said DiPietro, 45, owner of Sparkle Dry Cleaners.

DiPietro says it's all about experience and his record.

"Sometimes, the best government is when you don't hear about it a lot. Things are running smooth . . . I want to continue the good job we're doing," he said, taking credit for two consecutive tax decreases and a planned third one announced this week for the upcoming village budget.

Potenza, who has been sensitive to development and preservation issues, says she's not against new business.

"I don't like the words preservationist or pro-development," she said. "I am for responsible development. I don't want to see every fast-food chain under the sun on Main Street."

DiPietro said Potenza has no record on which to run. "She hasn't said one thing she'll do different or change or one thing she stands for," he said.

But Potenza insists she will offer a greater level of respect, if elected mayor, and maintain decorum at meetings.

"You can't just turn it on for a meeting. You have to live it," she said.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com