Could Kiedrowski Step Back into NT Role?

The ink on North Tonawanda 1st Ward Alderman Phillip “Russ” Rizzo’s resignation letter had barely dried Wednesday afternoon at NT City Hall before the rumor mill there began to churn out possible successors.

One of the names rapidly rising to the top of some local oddsmakers, though, is a name familiar to many in Niagara County politics, and certainly in North Tonawanda: Scott P. Kiedrowski, the county Republican Party chairman, former city clerk-treasurer, and current Western Region OTB vice president.

NT’s city council will have its hands full in coming weeks. Rizzo’s departure is the second high-profile resignation from city government in as many weeks. It follows the surprise departure of Alderwoman Catherine Schwandt, who left because of potential conflicts with her job at the New York Power Authority.

Making matters tougher is that Rizzo, a sort of elder statesman in NT politics, who served on the Common Council in two different eras, bracketing a single term in the Niagara County Legislature, will be, according to both Republican faithful and Lumber City Democrats, difficult for the local GOP machine to replace. The grandfatherly figure—who leaves office after doing battle with a brain tumor—was popular with many in Niagara County’s second city.

“Russ was very often ‘Mr. North Tonawanda,'” NT GOP Chairman Mike Carney said in a prepared statement. “He also did a fantastic job getting back to his constituents, calling them back, staying on top of their issues. He challenged our Republican-led city government to work as diligently as he did.”

To succeed such a popular figure, who won his last race for reelection by 22 percentage points, Republicans may need to tap a known quantity in city politics—particularly in the city’s 1st Ward, where city Democrats have long found their most favorable terrain.

As a highly-placed NT City Hall Republican told us Wednesday night, Kiedrowski seems to fit that mold.

“Scottie took 70 percent citywide the last time he ran,” the city official said. “That included the 1st Ward, where he won every single district. With him, Republicans won’t have to worry about the Democrats skunking us.”

A quick check of county Board of Elections records verifies what we were told.  Kiedrowski carried every single one of ten voting districts in North Tonawanda’s 1st Ward, often by a two-to-one or better margin, against Democrat Gregg R. Schnitzer. Schnitzer served as secretary to former Mayor Larry Soos, the last Democrat to hold that office in a city where Republicans have come to dominate in recent years.

Scott Kiedorwski, VP of Batavia Downs, Niagara County GOP Chairman and possibly the man who will be selected to replace the retiring Russ Rizzo as Alderman in North Tonawanda.

Scott Kiedorwski, VP of Batavia Downs, Niagara County GOP Chairman and possibly the man who will be selected to replace the retiring Russ Rizzo as Alderman in North Tonawanda.

Despite repeated attempts, the Reporter was unable to reach Kiedrowski before deadline.

When the Reporter contacted Carney about the rumors that Kiedrowski might be appointed, the city chairman punted.

“That’s a decision both Scott and the Council would have to make,” Carney told us. “Obviously, I’ve known Scott for years, and have a deep respect for him, but the appointment would be a decision for the Common Council, not the party. And I’m sure Scott wouldn’t make a decision to apply for that post lightly.”

Kiedrowski’s political résumé is impressive. A former city alderman, he went on to serve as the GOP’s elections commissioner in Lockport for the better part of a decade, before returning to his hometown to serve as clerk-treasurer after newly-elected Mayor Rob Ortt defeated Soos and vacated the clerk-treasurer office he had once held.

Kiedrowski went on to comfortably win back-to-back elections for the post, before again following Ortt to serve as the newly-elected state senator’s chief of staff.

The stint with Ortt was followed by the gig at WROTB—a post where Kiedrowski was reunited with another longtime political ally: former Niagara County Republican Party Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, a local political kingmaker who leaned heavily on Kiedrowski as his elections commissioner.

This newspaper attempted to reach out to several North Tonawanda aldermen, but only reached new Council President Eric Zadzilka, who represents the city’s 3rd Ward. Zadzilka refused to speculate on who would succeed Rizzo, saying only, “Today is about Russ. Tomorrow, we’ll start to put together a plan to fill two vacancies. But it would be premature to even speculate.”

Sounds like Kiedrowski to us… and not a bad choice at that…

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