Village Board Bids Farewell To Cassadaga Mayor

CASSADAGA — It was an emotional affair at Wednesday’s Cassadaga Village Board meeting, as LeeAnn Lazarony presided over the village board for the final time as mayor.

While the village conducted its usual business, it took a backseat to all of the teary goodbyes given from all of the trustees, and a couple of residents, as well.

Jim Holton, president of Citizens for a Better Cassadaga, spoke first during the public portion of the meeting, explaining that it was Lazarony who helped with the inception of the CBC, and could therefore partially credit her for the successes the organization has had since.

“I came in here one night three years ago,” Holton began, “and I was a little bit concerned because that school was empty and had been empty for two years, and I was superintendent of schools, as you know, for over 20 years, and was like, isn’t there something we can do to get that going?”

“The Catholic church was closed, Grandma’s Kitchen was done and just sitting there. The Baptist church was really in a state of transition, and I could go on about a couple more places. I would like to stand here and say, because of the planning board and the CBC, all of those things are going strong in one way or the other,” Holton said. “… I think it was the feeling in the community that it was the trustees, and you, that worked really hard to get those things going, and you did it, and everybody did it.”

He then pulled out a letter, signed by five board members of the CBC, which thanked Lazarony for her support.

“This is written to express the appreciation from the Citizens for a Better Cassadaga for all that you and the village trustees have done to support and guide the CBC since its inception more than three years ago at a board meeting three years ago on Dec. 3, 2014, originally under … the planning board,” Holton read.

“At that meeting, you, LeeAnn, stated that, ‘I would like to do what we can to bring businesses to Cassadaga, and to support our existing business and all of their endeavors,'” Holton quoted. “With your encouragement, focus areas were developed, including land use and real estate, recreation parks and environment, and economic development. This has resulted in numerous improvement projects … that continue to this day and will expand in the future.

“In sum, the CBC thanks you and the trustees with our most sincere gratitude for your visionary leadership during your tenure to insure that our community moves forward to continue to be such a beautiful place to work, play and raise our families.”

Lazarony sincerely thanked Holton for his comments and letter, but the night only got more emotional from there.

Amanda Kalfas, trustee and Lazarony’s daughter, gave a statement, as well, thanking her mother for her guidance and reflecting back on eight years ago, when Lazarony spontaneously ran a write-in campaign four days before the election, beating out the only official person on the ballot by a 2:1 margin.

“I know me coming on the board two years ago, and with all the questions I had and everything that I needed help with, I really appreciate everything that you’ve done for me on the board, and I appreciate everything that you’ve done for the village. I will never run a write-in campaign with you again though, and I will never run around Cassadaga asking people to sign your name. That was crazy,” Kalfas laughed. “I wanted to thank you very much, and we’re all going to miss you.”

Amber Hilliker, who served on the board for a year in the wake of Mike Lehnen’s random resignation, thanked Lazarony and the rest of the board for its guidance over the past year.

“I’ve been on for almost a year, and I’ve lived in the village my whole life, and in the past year, I’ve learned so much more about the village, I’ve seen more, and unfortunately some of my other projects take time away, so I appreciate for the past year what you guys have taught me in the time I’ve gotten to spend on the board, and we’re still neighbors,” Hilliker laughed, motioning toward Lazarony. “Thank you to everyone. It’s been a wonderful pleasure, for the past year.”

Lazarony then, during her report, choked up when addressing the rest of the board and the attending residents.

“This is probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, being mayor. I can’t be the mayor without Roxanne (Astry). You have to have a great clerk. I love this village very much, and it’s been my pleasure to serve as the mayor. I will miss it, but I’m glad I’m going,” Lazarony chuckled.

“I think that sometimes you get a little tunnel-visioned about things, and when I came on as the mayor, I think I thought outside the box a lot, and somehow just got tunnel-visioned, and I think it’s important that somebody else comes in and does some different things.