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End of an Era: Forster to Leave Top Democratic Post

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Forster will remain as Director of Water Board
& support Jason Zona as new Democratic Party Boss.


By: Frank Parlato


Nicholas J. Forster will not seek reelection as Niagara County Democratic Chairman this October and will throw his support to Niagara County Legislator Jason Zona.

Forster served as Democratic Party Chairman for an unprecedented six terms, the last time  – in 2016 – he won unanimously.

Forster has been an old-fashioned Democrat, with an inclusive attitude. Unlike present-day Democrats on the national scene – who support the creation of a Super State – with increasingly socialist/communistic viewpoints, Forster fought for freedoms including economic freedom, and the right of small businessmen and unions both to thrive.

He tried to support middle-of-the-road candidates who wanted to see tax reductions not bigger nanny state government.

Throughout his tenure, he tried to be inclusive. His famous saying that he would lead by “building bridges for people to be able to cross over their differences and come together” was the hallmark of his success.

Forster was first elected party chairman in 1995 and served three two-year terms until 2001. During those years, Democrats rose to have parity in the county with Republicans in elected offices.

Before that Forster was the City of Niagara Falls Democratic chairman from 1990 to 1994.


Nicholas Forster


After Forster chose to leave his position as Niagara County Chair in 2001– the Democrats lost significant seats in the County Legislature and Republicans, under the able and clever leadership of former Republican State Senator and the de-facto party boss, George Maziarz, Republicans came to dominate the  county political landscape, nearly sweeping all Democrats out of office – outside the City of Niagara Falls.

Some 11 years later, Forster returned as Democratic County Chair – being elected in 2012 – and against all odds, upped the number of elected Democrats locally –while fighting against the much more highly funded Republican machine – usually with a shoe string budget.

The sheriff, the district attorney and county treasurer went to Democrats under Forster and he gained one seat in the Niagara County Legislature, a Democratic supervisor in the Town of Niagara and a Democratic highway superintendent in the Town of Lewiston.

In 2017. Forster took on a new role in public service. He was appointed by the City of Niagara Falls City Council to be their appointee for the badly mismanaged Niagara Falls Water Board.

He became the first hands-on director in the Water Board’s history. Working with the subsequently appointed Dan O’Callaghan – and with the support of Renee Kimble – the Water Board was revolutionized.

Waste was cut – the longstanding stench that wafted over the city every summer was eliminated, all the fire hydrants were fixed and the incredibly scandalous underground water leakage – at more than 66 percent – was reduced to under 18 percent.  The overtime theft was addressed, union issues were resolved, needed equipment was purchased from the savings and the Water Board is on the high road of making water rates as competitive as anyplace in the USA.

But, there is more to do. With an aging facility that will require 10s of millions of dollar in upgrades and modernization, Forster has chosen to focus on this as his top public service priority.

In addition to working full time in his paid job with the state – as a Senior Inspector for the Gaming Commission, Forster has been spending an additional 20-40 hours per week at his unpaid job at the Water Authority – helping to correct the long years of neglect there.

This year, rather than seek a 7th term as Chairman of the Democratic Party – and spending long hours managing and supporting candidates in  their campaigns  –  he has chosen to concentrate on finishing the job he started at the Water Board.

He said he is contemplating possibly running for elected office in the future.

In many ways he is the epitome of public service.

Forster will lend his support for Democratic Party Chair to his longtime friend and a man he first helped bring to public office, Jason Zona – who, with Forster’s support, may run unopposed for Party Chairman

In announcing his decision not to run for reelection as Party Chairman, Forster issued the following statement:

I’ve always said that a time comes when a good politician knows that he or she should get out of the ring. For me, after two stints as County Democratic Chairman totaling 12 years, that time is now. While I love being County Chairman, I must admit that I am tired of it, I realize that I have served long enough, and I have decided to devote my attention to other matters that may include seeking local elective office.

When I became the chair of the city committee in Niagara Falls in 1990 I followed the direction of the late Hubert Humphrey that the “test we must set for ourselves is not to march alone but to march in such a way that others will wish to join.” That approach worked for me in the city and stayed with me when I became county chair in 1996 and continued until 2001. Later, when I returned to the county post in 2012, it remained my goal that others join me in what I consider the noblest of pursuits: electing Democrats to public office. That goal wasn’t always easy to accomplish, hard fought campaigns sometimes ended in painful defeats.

Still, there were successes that help elevate competent, honest and public service minded individuals to positions in village, town, county, state and federal offices. To all of those – win or lose – who sacrificed their time and resources and put themselves out there for the Democratic Party, I am profoundly grateful. I am equally grateful to all those who toiled with me on behalf of those candidates, my fellow committee members, financial supporters, my family and the strong and consistent support of organized labor.

Of course, the work goes on and the cause endures. As Bobby Kennedy said: “elections remind us of our right to vote but also of our responsibilities as citizens in a democracy” – I view party leadership as crucial to the exercise of those responsibilities and am hopeful therefor that the County Democratic Committee will nominate and elect County Legislator Jason Zona as my successor. Jay knows the ropes, is a tested campaigner and organizer and has the brains, determination and energy to lead the party to new heights. He has my full and unqualified support.

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