Jeffrey Elder was a member of the Air Force One crew for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Now, the retired Air Force master sergeant wants Niagara Falls to take flight with him at the helm as mayor of his hometown.
Elder, 57, has qualified for the Nov. 5 general election ballot as an independent candidate, dubbing his ballot line "Dynamic New Future."
He started his campaign with a bang last week when, according to the Niagara County Board of Elections, he submitted 290 pages of nominating petitions with 2,678 signatures, far more than any of the party-affiliated candidates.
Elder, the only African American in the race, said Wednesday that he didn't want to make any public comments until after the June 25 Democratic primary – which he has not entered – for fear of confusing voters.
On his campaign website, he says Niagara Falls' current condition "is a result of the failure of creativity and ingenuity of past leaders. They may have been well-intended people, but they seem to have been unable to inspire growth or motivation to the community or confidence in their vision and leadership. My whole career has been focused on motivation and service. This is the minimum I will bring to the City of Niagara Falls."
Elder, who is not a member of any political party, makes the mayoral derby a four-man race.
Sean A. Piccirillo, the city's community development director, and Robert M. Restaino, the former city judge and current School Board president, are competing in the Democratic primary. Both have minor-party lines nailed down for November, with Restaino on the Conservative and Independence lines and Piccirillo on the Working Families line.
Meanwhile, former Councilman Glenn A. Choolokian is the Republican nominee, having changed parties since his near-miss in the 2015 Democratic mayoral primary.
Elder graduated from the former LaSalle Senior High School in 1980 and immediately joined the Air Force, where he served 26 years and compiled nearly 6,000 hours of flying time.
He joined the Air Force One crew in 1994 and continued until his retirement in 2006.
After retiring, he worked as a disaster preparedness specialist and exercise planner for Northrop Grumman Corp., stationed at the Pentagon, and later for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.
He holds a degree in emergency management from the University of Maryland.
Elder was a racquetball star during his time in uniform, winning the Maryland state championship six times. He was ranked No. 1 nationally in his age group, and served as coach and captain of the Air Force racquetball team, according to his website.