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Council majority leader chosen to head Buffalo employment center

Mayor Byron W. Brown on Tuesday appointed Common Council Majority Leader Demone A. Smith of the Masten District to head the Buffalo Employment & Training Center.

The announcement came after Smith was honored by his Council colleagues at the end of their regular bimonthly session.

“It came through yesterday,” Smith, 41, said of his appointment as executive director of the agency that is responsible for workforce-development initiatives to address the needs of both employers and job seekers in Buffalo and Erie County.

“I had been asking about (the post) when it first became vacant. I think it will be an excellent fit for me, and I look forward to working with the mayor on getting more people employed and working.”

The $80,000-a-year position of executive director has been vacant since former State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson resigned more than a year ago to challenge Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes in last September’s Democratic primary. Thompson, who lost the primary to Peoples-Stokes, was first appointed by Brown to head the center in December 2012.

Smith’s appointment will be effective upon his resignation Friday from the Council, to which he was first elected in 2007. He had previously served in the Erie County Legislature.

“Demone Smith is a seasoned professional, and his 15-plus years of experience working with all levels of government, community members, organizations and city residents will play a key role in forming new partnerships that will further ensure Buffalo’s workforce system meets the needs of our growing economy,” Brown said in announcing the appointment.

The agency is tasked with helping city residents navigate training and job applications, as well as connecting qualified candidates to job opportunities in the region in the fields of health care and emerging technologies, such as those in the biosciences and high-tech industries.

A native of Buffalo, Smith is a graduate Burgard High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wilberforce University in Ohio. He was appointed to the County Legislature in 2003 and elected in January 2004.

Meanwhile, Smith’s move to the Buffalo Employment & Training Center raises the question of who will succeed him as the Masten District representative in Council. Smith already announced his candidacy for re-election to the seat and, so far, there has been no announcement of any candidate seeking to run against him.

Any candidate who emerges will have just over two weeks to collect signatures on petitions in order to meet the July 9 deadline for submitting petitions. Candidates will need to collect at least 500 valid signatures, said Leonard R. Lenihan, the Democratic commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections.

“That’s plenty of time. If you put 10 people on the street gathering petitions for you, you can get that in one night,” Lenihan said. “Getting 500 signatures is not an awesome task. If a campaign is organized and they know what they’re doing, you can go out and get at least 600 signatures by assigning the right people to the right neighborhoods.”