OLEAN — A political veteran of more than 20 years and a first-time candidate are aiming to represent several city neighborhoods for the next two years.
David Anastasia of Maple Street will appear on the Democratic and Working Families lines for the Ward 7 seat on the Olean Common Council, while Reed McElfresh of Oak Street will appear on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
The victor will replace Brian George, a Republican, who chose to run for one of three seats on the Cattaraugus County Legislature representing District 8. George, a Cutco employee, has represented the ward since 2016.
Ward 7 covers the North Olean, Homer Hill and Baldwin Heights neighborhoods, as well as the northern end of the downtown business district. The ward had 1,124 active voters as of Feb. 1, according to the state Board of Elections.
ANASTASIA is no stranger to the Council. The state Department of Transportation employee served as alderman for Ward 9 then Ward 7 from 1986 to 1996. He also sat on the Cattaraugus County Legislature from 1996 to 2008.
“It will be very easy for me to step in in January,” if elected, he said, noting his experience will eliminate the “breaking in” period common for new aldermen.
He said his latest run — over a decade after leaving his last political office — came at the behest of neighbors.
“A few of the residents who I represented previously asked me to run — they felt they weren’t being represented,” he said. “I just want to have that personal contact with my ward — whether it’s yay or nay, I want their voices heard again.”
He said that blight is one of the major concerns of his neighbors, adding he wants to work with the city’s codes office to see what more can be done to assist the city and the Cattaraugus County Land Bank with tearing down more blighted properties.
To help with the city’s finances, he wants the council to meet with department heads, “as well as the employees who are doing the job every day” in order to help identify “cost savings and running the city more efficiently.”
He added several neighbors are concerned about crime, and he wishes to work with the police and the Taskforce for Empowering Neighborhoods to reactivate the neighborhood watch in the ward.
MCELFRESH, a business analyst at The Iroquois Group, is a political newcomer.
“In April, the Republican party reached out about running,” McElfresh said. “I had moved to the ward in October — it was a good time to get involved.
“We’re in a small town, so you should do as much as you can to help it,” he added, noting he is an Olean native and St. Bonaventure University graduate.
He said he is pleased with much of the progress Olean has had in recent years, citing the many capital projects undertaken across the city.
“It’s nice to see Olean is investing in it,” he said, but added he would like to be involved in striking an important balance. “Make sure we’re not overextending ourselves … but don’t fall back into the classic Rust Belt city.
“Ward 7 is made up of families and retirees, so I think it’s important to keep an eye on finances,” he said.
While there have been a number of improvements on brownfields in the ward — including the under-construction Olean Gateway hotel and several large solar power projects — the empty fields still offer room for growth, McElfresh said.
He said a priority should be placed on acquiring grants to finish remediation efforts and finding new development, “or find alternatives like solar energy that can be installed that don’t require as much money to remediate in advance.”