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Leadership Key Issue In County Executive Race

Before running for a seat vacated by highly popular state Sen. Catharine Young in 2019, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello was making things happen. In his first 100 days after earning the office, he visited more than 100 businesses to learn about their needs and concerns. He brought together adversary stakeholders regarding the future of Chautauqua Lake and had them working together.

He also made strides with sharing of services and regional efforts. There was a definite momentum.

We’re not so sure the same can be said about the current interim county executive. After being unanimously voted into the position by 18 legislators, his first 100 days in office led to a scenario no one could have forecast. By the middle of March, PJ Wendel had become a voice of calm and reason as the COVID-19 crisis took hold. He offered weekly updates and information in press conferences that were also streamed on social media.

He had no choice but to take charge — and has done an admirable job considering our unprecedented way of life the last seven months. But his path to that top spot was a gift from the county Republicans.

As County Legislature chairman, he was next in line. In that sense, Wendel was forced to lead.

But he came with no flair.

Even while serving in that role of lawmaker, outside of the region he served in Lakewood-Busti, he was just another anonymous member of the mostly underwhelming crew of 19 representatives in Mayville — led by Republican leadership, we might add. In the last six years, this body can tout few accomplishments while consistently endorsing higher spending in annual budget plans while also raising your taxes in a shell game of lowering the property tax rates while increasing the sales tax.

Richard Morrisroe, the Democratic opponent, is a newcomer to Chautauqua County but not to the political landscape. Serving as Dunkirk city attorney, he provides a moderate voice in what has been a rife relationship between the mayor and council during the last nine months.

Before moving to Dunkirk in 2018, he lived in Erie County and was an executive director of a housing nonprofit agency, a drug prevention specialist, and a legislative aide for the Buffalo Common Council. Still, to many here, he is even more unknown.

What Morrisroe could provide — and is desperately needed in Mayville — is a different perspective and a significant voice. Right now, taking out the issue of the pandemic, just what is county government doing to better your way of life?

At this point, it appears stale. It has no direction and needs some urgency.

Whoever wins this election will have the post for one year and then be up for election next November. If the candidates thought this year was a fiscal challenge, a larger day of reckoning — courtesy of the economics of COVID-19 — is not far away.

Leadership has become a key issue by both candidates in this race. At the moment, however, it appears to be more of an ideal than an action. In not endorsing either candidate, we hope the winner is prepared and able to make tough decisions revolving around spending reductions and major lake issues that have not been made since the selling of the Chautauqua County Home.

That is what true leadership is about.

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