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LoCurto giving up his seat on Common Council for Erie County post

Michael J. LoCurto, viewed as one of the more liberal and independent voices on the Buffalo Common Council, is leaving his Delaware District seat for a job in the Poloncarz administration.

LoCurto, 44, is slated to be named deputy commissioner of the county’s Department of Environment and Planning at the end of the month.

The appointment is part of a larger county personnel move that began when former deputy county executive Richard M. Tobe left county government in January for a job with the Cuomo administration. Tobe’s slot was temporarily filled by Maria Whyte, who is also the county’s Environment and Planning commissioner.

Now, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz is prepared to name Whyte as the permanent deputy county executive, making way for Thomas Dearing, the current deputy Environment and Planning commissioner, to be named commissioner and for LoCurto to be named his deputy.

Sitting in his City Hall office Monday, LoCurto said he previously expressed some interest to Whyte about working for the Environment and Planning Office, given his master’s degree in urban and regional planning.

LoCurto said he was offered the job in the days leading up to the July 4 holiday, June 29, and, after some thought, decided to take it.

“It was a tough decision,” said LoCurto, who is in his 10th year on the Council, and was preparing to run for another four-year term this year.

“I’m proud of the 9¼ years on the Council,” he said. “It’s been a good run.” As councilman, LoCurto earns $52,000 annually. His new job is expected to pay about $74,000 a year.

LoCurto is the second Council member in the past month to decide to leave City Hall for a better-paying job.

Demone A. Smith last month left his Masten District seat to take an $89,000-a-year job heading up the city’s Employment & Training Center.

All nine Council seats are up for election this year. Smith resigned from his seat before the July 9 deadline for submitting nominating petitions to run for Common Council.

Four Democrats and one Conservative filed nominating petitions for the seat last week. The Democrats are La’Mone Gibson, Yvette Suarez, Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. and School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman.

The Conservative Party candidate is Michael A. Woolford.

LoCurto did not pull out of the race prior to the petition deadline, and as it turns out, no one filed petitions to run against him in the upcoming Council race.

As a result, the Erie County Democratic Party will pick a candidate to run in the Delaware District election.

Already, at least five people have expressed interest, said Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner. Among them are Sam McGavern, Julie Kruger, Joel Feroleto, Carima El-Behairy and Steven Cichon.

Democratic leaders will decide by Friday, Zellner said, who to endorse for the Delaware seat. Whoever is endorsed would be expected to run without opposition from candidates running on a party line.

The Democratic leaders also will decide by Friday if they want to make an endorsement in the Masten race. But even if the party endorses in that race, the other announced candidates are expected to remain in the contest.

Candidate petitions setting up primary challenges also were filed last week in the Ellicott and Fillmore districts. In Ellicott, Terrance L. Heard filed petitions to challenge Darius G. Pridgen, the current Council president.

In the Fillmore District, petitions were filed by incumbent David A. Franczyk as well as potential Democratic challengers Joseph A. Mascia and Samuel Herbert.

Also, David P. Howard filed to run for Fillmore District on the Independence line.

In the Niagara District, incumbent David A. Rivera is running unchallenged in the Democratic primary, but Charles R. Tarr filed petitions to run in the general election on the Green Party line.

No petitions were filed against incumbents in the University, South or North districts.

Buffalo News reporter Harold McNeil contributed to this report. email: