When Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak brought in a developer who wanted to demolish Cedargrove Heights and rebuild it, residents fought long, hard and loudly against it.
It never crossed the mind of community activist Joan Adams at that time that she ever would miss Gabryszak.
"We've had many arguments. We had a big battle going there," she said.
But now that Gabryszak is leaving town government after 22 years to become an assemblyman, Adams doesn't want to see him go.
"We're very upset he's leaving us," she said. "We had our words when they wanted to tear it down. It brought us closer."
Democrat Gabryszak, 55, won election to the 143rd Assembly District seat now held by Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga.
In his 18 years in the Assembly, Tokasz has risen to the influential post of majority leader. Gabryszak says he has no illusions about his status as a freshman legislator.
"I'm not going with grandiose expectations," he said, adding, "I'm going in to give it my all."
What he will take with him is a lifetime of observing and practicing politics, first learned by watching his father, Henry, who was mayor of Sloan when Gabryszak was born.
"I learned a lot from him in terms of what it means to be a public servant," Gabryszak said.
And while he enjoys being able to call a department head and solve a problem for a constituent, he also knows that doesn't always work.
"You can't solve everyone's problems," he said.
Cheektowaga has been known for colorful residents who aren't afraid to complain at board meetings. One of those, whom Gabryszak has called on in recent years, is Anita Depczynski, often called the "deer lady." Gabryszak sat through her criticism over the mangement of Stiglmeier Park, including the deer bait-and-shoot program, although he sometimes cut her short and adjourned the meetings.
"What's been going on in Stiglmeier Park is a metaphor on how this town has been run," Depczynski says.
Gabryszak would say the town has been run pretty well under his watch. He's proud of the Julia B. Reinstein Library and that the town finally has a golf course, which opened this year on Sonwil Drive. He also said the town is in sound financial shape.
"The new supervisor isn't going to have to worry about any looming control board," he said.
He would like a do-over on solar lights. Residents are still asking when they will get electric street lights, after solar lights proved to be unreliable and provide low light.
"I don't think the town could be faulted in looking at the use of solar power," he said, adding that the product didn't meet expectations.
Gabryszak served as a councilman for more than 10 years, after more than three years as a Depew village trustee. He was appointed supervisor in 1993 and then won election to the office. Before becoming supervisor, he was deputy county clerk for the Auto Bureau and, previously, an officer of Citicorp Services, a money-order company.
James J. Jankowiak is deputy supervisor and has known Gabryszak for 25 years. He recalls going to the supervisor's office a couple of weeks ago.
"He's sitting behind the desk. I could see he was very comfortable behind that desk. It's challenging and a good job for him," Jankowiak said. "I think he's going to miss being supervisor of the Town of Cheektowaga."