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2 women being considered to fill Council vacancy in Lackawanna

Two women - a former mayoral candidate and a political neophyte -- will be considered for Lackawanna's City Council seat from the 2nd Ward, which becomes vacant when current Councilman Geoffrey M. Szymanski is sworn in Sunday as mayor.

The 2nd Ward Democratic Committee recommended Annette Iafallo and Rebecca L. Darch for consideration to fill the seat Szymanski has held since 2006. Five other candidates also applied to the committee.

The Council, which is not obligated to choose one of the committee's recommended candidates, will meet Tuesday to select Szymanski's successor.

"We had a wonderful slate of people to interview," said Francis G. Warthling, chairman of the Lackawanna Democratic Committee. "They all had great qualifications. These two fared the best."

Iafallo, 60, is no stranger to Lackawanna politics. She won two elections to the School Board, serving six years, including two as president. She also ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007 against Norman L. Polanski Jr.

Iafallo currently works as School Board clerk, a post to which she was appointed in 2008.

Married for 37 years to her husband, John, Iafallo has lived in the 2nd Ward since 1979.

Darch, 25, said she moved to Lackawanna about five years ago and purchased a house last summer on Electric Avenue in the 2nd Ward.

Darch, who grew up in Batavia, is supervisor of family and county services for Heritage Centers, a Buffalo-based nonprofit agency that works primarily with the developmentally disabled. She has not sought elected office before.

A 2008 graduate of Buffalo State College, she previously worked as a counselor with Transitional Services.

Both Iafallo and Darch said they would work to eliminate blighted housing and improve playgrounds in the 2nd Ward.

"I definitely want to see some of these boarded-up homes get demolished or get purchased," Darch said. "There's grant money out there to get it done."

Darch, who recently was engaged to be married, said she hopes to raise a family in the 2nd Ward and is committed to making the neighborhood better.

"I want to make sure it's appealing, and it's a nice, safe place to live," she said.

Iafallo said that the same kind of blight, abandoned homes and crime that has plagued the city's 1st Ward is moving into the 2nd Ward.

"I don't want it to go downhill any further," she said.

If appointed, Iafallo said she would continue in her position with the school district.

"There's absolutely no conflict," she said, adding that she has consulted with the district's lawyer and the State School Boards Association on the matter. "I am not making policy [for the district]. I am not setting rules. I'm just an employee."

Iafallo also said she would work to remove the federal flood insurance requirement for many 2nd Ward homeowners. "These people cannot afford it," she said.

Other candidates interviewed by the 2nd Ward Democratic Committee, according to Warthling, were: John Kwasniewski, Gregory J. Stachowski, Patrick A. McCusker, Andrew Bremer and Nicholas M. Sobaszek.

Iafallo or Darch would be the only woman on the five-member Council that will be led by newcomer and Council President Henry R. Pirowski. Also new to the Council is Keith E. Lewis, who will represent the 4th Ward.

First Ward Councilman Abdul Noman and 3rd Ward Councilman Francis J. Kulczyk are the holdovers from the 2011 City Council.

Lackawanna City Court Judge Louis P. Violanti will conduct the swearing-in ceremony for Szymanski and for Lewis. Judge Frederick J. Marrano will swear in Pirowski.

The ceremonies will be held at noon in the Lackawanna Senior Citizens Center, 230 Martin Road.


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