Chris’s Corner: For Next Mayor, Private Sector Experience a Must

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Chris Voccio is a Niagara Falls City Council member and can be reached at ChrisVoccio@gmail.com.

 

By: Niagara Falls City Councilman Chris Voccio

By the time you read this, the ballot-access petition process is winding down or finished and we likely have three candidates for mayor, two Democrats and one Republican.

Being relatively new to Niagara Falls, I don’t know everything about the candidates’ backgrounds, so I’m looking forward to the debates, candidate forums, etc.

I do know something about all three candidates and here’s what I can say with certainty: All three are nice guys who care about the city and want to see it prosper. But obviously we need more from a chief executive of the city than being nice and having lofty hopes.

When Barack Obama was president, I often said that he would have been a better president had he, instead of being a community organizer in Chicago, been an assistant store manager at a Taco Bell or a Burger King.

My understanding is that Barack Obama, before being elected to the Illinois State Senate (and then the United States Senate and then, well, you know the story) was a university professor and before that, a community organizer. While I’m not really sure what a community organizer does, I’m pretty sure that experience in the private sector, helping manage a restaurant or any other small business, would have put him in a better position to be the chief executive officer of a city, a state, or the world’s greatest superpower.

If Barack Obama had a few years in the private sector, managing work schedules, hiring employees, managing employees, firing employees, dealing with federal, state and local government regulations, satisfying corporate profit expectations, keeping customers satisfied, monitoring competitor activities, managing logistics, dealing with pricing issues, managing vendor relations, working crazy hours (certainly without overtime pay), having no pension expectations and a modest health insurance plan that he had to pay into, he would have made a better chief executive.

He likely would have surrounded himself with others who shared similar challenging experiences (instead of university professors.) This isn’t a knock against university professors or community organizers, as they fill important roles, at least the professors do. But that doesn’t mean they should be elected president, governor or mayor. 

There are certain skills sets and talents that are battle-tested in the pressure-cooker world of private enterprise, and I’m not sure our last president faced those daily tests before being elected president.

Back to Niagara Falls. 

Our next mayor should have at least some degree of private sector experience. He — all three candidates are males — should tell the electorate about his successes and failures in the real world and what he’s learned that will help him lead our city to prosperity. 

He should also surround himself with private sector people. A chief executive who surrounds himself with people who understand the challenges of competing for customers will better manage the affairs of the city and treat citizens and taxpayers like they were customers. Taxpayers, after all, are like customers in that they can choose to leave. 

Please don’t misunderstand me. Having some lifelong public sector people in the administration, people wrapped in the comfortable security blanket of union protections or political patronage, people with publicly-funded pensions and gold-plated health insurance benefits, would be tolerable. But we should want at least some people around the next mayor who’ve had to deal with the harsh realities of the competitive marketplace.

Niagara Falls would benefit from having a chief executive who has had to navigate the obstacle course we call the real world.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the candidates’ meaningful private-sector experiences and hope you, dear reader, consider this before casting your vote.

 

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