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Schweitzer replaces McDonnell on city Preservation Board

Well-known preservationist Catherine F. Schweitzer has been appointed to the Buffalo Preservation Board to replace longtime member Paul McDonnell.

Schweitzer has been the executive director of the Baird Foundation since 1995 and is a national adviser for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She played a decisive role in bringing the National Preservation Conference to Buffalo in 2011 and was among The Buffalo News' 2011 Outstanding Citizens.

Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen said Schweitzer will be a "fabulous" addition to the volunteer board.

"She talks about processes and wanting to make sure processes are right on the Preservation Board. She is a person who will take a deep look at the process of preservation and make the system even better," said Pridgen, who nominated Schweitzer. "I'm very impressed with her attention to detail. She has extensive relationships in preservation, not only in Western New York but across the country."

The Council unanimously approved Schweitzer's appointment on Tuesday. She was not immediately available for comment but is expected to attend the next Preservation Board meeting on May 3.

She replaces McDonnell, who was appointed by then-Council President David A. Franczyk, who represents the Fillmore District. McDonnell had been a board member for the past 10 years, about six of those as the elected chairman, he said. His term expired about four years ago. Since then he had been serving as a “holdover” who serves on a day-to-day basis until a new person is appointed.

A Preservation Board member can only serve two, three-year terms, McDonnell explained, and cannot be reappointed. However, that person can leave the board altogether and then return as a new appointee, he said.

In addition to serving as chairman of the Preservation Board, McDonnell is co-founder and current president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture and gives architectural tours during the summer aboard the organization’s Open Air Autobus. An architect, he is employed as the director of facilities, planning, design and construction for the Buffalo Public Schools.

“All in all, I’ve had a great run, and I felt I made some good contributions,” McDonnell said of his time on the Preservation Board. "I think we made some great progress on the board. We ended up landmarking a number of buildings. We've added (historic) districts. Well over 90 percent of the applications that came before us were approved. We've added a professionalism to the meetings. We have gone out and met with people at their property and given them recommendations."

McDonnell did not attend Tuesday's meeting but Pridgen, the councilmember for the Ellicott District, thanked McDonnell for his service on the board and "for caring a lot about preservation."

In addition to the Council president’s three appointments, the 11-member Preservation Board includes six appointees of the mayor; and one each from the Buffalo History Museum and Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

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