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The accidental mayor of Williamsville talks about his new role in politics

Dan DeLano doesn't look like your run-of-the-mill politician, and he doesn't have the typical background, either.

The new 51-year-old mayor of Williamsville works in construction, plays music professionally, owned a tavern in Kenmore and was a stay-at-home dad. And his ample coif of rock-star hair makes him stand out from other Village Board members.

But DeLano, who became mayor three weeks ago, has worked during two terms as a village trustee to ease traffic on Main Street and help plant thousands of trees in the village.

In a way, DeLano is the accidental mayor. He became deputy mayor in September 2016 after a driving while intoxicated arrest prompted the previous deputy mayor to take an indefinite leave of absence. The Village Board then picked DeLano to replace Mayor Brian J. Kulpa after Kulpa won election as Amherst supervisor.

DeLano, who must run in June's election for the final 18 months of Kulpa's term, said in an interview that he wants to bring the village's costly sewer system under the umbrella of the town or county, update the village's community plan and find a way to keep Thruway traffic away from downtown Williamsville.

The divorced father of two sons, 21 and 18, was born on Buffalo's East Side and graduated from Kenmore West High School. He earned a certificate from Bryant & Stratton and an associate degree from Erie Community College. The bar he owned in the 1990s, the Delaware Inn, is now a funeral home parking lot.

DeLano plays in studio sessions and at Sportsmens Tavern, the Tralf and other local venues. He's played a mix of rock, blues and country with the Darts, the Steam Donkeys, the Garage Doors, a Led Zeppelin tribute band named Coda and a band made up of village residents, Scarred for Life.

"You can't say it's full time, you can't say it's part time," said DeLano, who moved to Williamsville in 2007.

Here are seven questions with Williamsville's new mayor:

Williamsville Mayor Dan DeLano (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

How did you get interested in music?

"I play just about everything but my main instrument is keyboards. I've been pretty involved in that locally since I was 15, 16. I started off playing with my father's band, so I could legally be in the bar if he was there with me. (Laughs). Still doing it."

When did politics come into the picture?

"Kevin Gaughan came in wanting to dissolve the village, in 2008 to early 2009. That's how I got involved with the Friends of the Village of Williamsville, which was the opposition group. It was a long process. And it ended up being, it was 83 percent to 17 was the final vote, to keep the village. So after the vote, and that was in August of 2010, sometime in early 2011 Brian Kulpa approached me and Amy Alexander, who was also in the Friends of the Village, she was the co-founder with me, he approached us to run for trustee on his ticket for mayor. And that's how it all happened."

How did your background prepare you for office?

"[Owning a tavern] taught me a lot about human nature. It definitely taught me how to defuse situations. I kept it 'clean,' from the beginning. I didn't allow any shenanigans. And it ended up being easier in the long run.

Twenty-five years ago [a musician running for mayor] probably wouldn't have flown. But things are a little different now. It's funny, I just had a conversation with a guy that was an investigative reporter for the Artvoice. He's in one of my bands. And he said the same exact thing you did: "You're coming from a different perspective, but you still deal with people and situations and problem solving among groups of people or individuals. He told me, 'You're not cookie cutter.'"

What are Williamsville's best assets?

"Just the walkability, and it's getting better all the time. Granted, traffic is a nightmare. But just the general atmosphere, when you go to the events, it's great. It's a really nice place to hang out and it's great living here. You get really personalized services for the most part. The parks are incredible. The history. We've been working very hard since the October storm to replenish the trees."

What can you do to ease Thruway-related congestion on Main Street? 

"The solution really is an interchange at Youngs [Road]. It would take more than half the traffic out that way."

Would installing cashless tolls at the Thruway's Williamsville toll barrier help? What else can the village do to control traffic?

"I think it would. Who knows where that's going to go. You hear about it, then it dies, you hear about it again, and it dies. That costs money, I get it. The governor talks about how successful it is downstate. I'd love to see that come up here.

The HAWK signal is going in this season, this construction season. And then the Picture Main project, for traffic calming, with the bulb outs and the lane-size reductions and the speed-limit reduction. They will be doing that in sections."

What development is happening in Williamsville?

"I think the tone's been set with the design code. Properties have gone up quite a bit in value on Main. I don't want to pick on anybody, so I won't, but there were a lot of buildings built in the '50s, '60s, where the automobile ruled. Our design standard says now that if you are to build anything new, you have to build it to the sidewalk, or with minimal setback. Parking in the back. As for the neighborhoods, what's starting to happen is, people are buying lots with older houses on them and knocking them down and building brand new houses. People want to build here, they want to live here, which is awesome."

Dan DeLano, the new Williamsville mayor, on stage at the Sportsmens Tavern in Buffalo in this May 2016 photo. (Ken Corman/Photo courtesy DeLano)

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