by Larry Austin
One familiar face and one new face were sworn in to public office on New Year's Eve.
At a ceremony in Grand Island Town Hall, lifelong Islander Chris Aronica was sworn in to a seat on the Grand Island Town Board, and John Ceretto took his oath of office to the New York State Assembly.
Town Justice Sybil Kennedy noted that the New Year's Eve swearing-in ceremony was the second of 2012 for Aronica, who was appointed to the council in January when Mary Cooke took office as town supervisor upon her election in 2011.
"I've had a chance to work the job as councilman, and I enjoy the job," Aronica said of his first year in public office. "It's challenging, rewarding. I look forward to serving again for another year."
Aronica will serve the remainder of Cooke's council term, which ends in 2013.
"I get to run again next year," he said, laughing.
He campaigned with Ceretto on the Island and defeated Shelia Ferrentino in November's general election.
"John and I did some joint walking together and attended each other's fundraisers. He's a good guy and I'm glad he got elected, and I know he's going to do well for the people," Aronica said.
Ceretto had his only local swearing-in ceremony, and decided it had to be at Grand Island Town Hall.
"I only wanted to have one swearing in. When I started my campaign, quite actually, I didn't know very many people on Grand Island. Through the campaign process, I met a lot of wonderful people that supported me, that worked for me in this campaign," Ceretto said. He noted Cooke, Aronica, and Conservative Committee of Grand Island Chairman Dr. Kevin Backus were among the many supporters who helped him in his first-ever campaign on the Island.
"I was overwhelmed how strong Grand Island came out for me," he said.
"I feel like I've met a new family. I'm excited about representing Grand Island. It just felt in my heart that this is where I needed to be today to be sworn in."
Ceretto beat Democrat Robert Restaino by 1,300 votes. Ceretto was first elected in 2010 to the 138th Assembly District. He was re-elected to the newly created 145th Assembly District in the Nov. 6 general election. The new 145th Assembly District is made up of the towns of Grand Island, Cambria, Lewiston, Town of Niagara and Wheatfield, the City of Niagara Falls and portions of the City of North Tonawanda. He said the redistricting removed 35 percent of his past district, and added Grand Island and North Tonawanda.
Even more humbling than just winning, Ceretto said, was that the two areas that he had never represented before supported him strongly. North Tonawanda supported Ceretto with 57 percent of the vote in a Democratic city, and 61 percent of voters on Grand Island voted for him. Ceretto said the results were an example of "people voting for me and putting political parties aside."
"What is humbling is that I had never, ever run in Grand Island and they accepted me and the message that we had done in the last two years, and that message is of change, because in the last two years New York state is getting better."
When he was elected, he said, New York was $13 billion in the hole, but has since cut $12 billion in spending. Ceretto said the legislature has passed the lowest middle class tax rate in 35 years, he helped secure $1 billion for Western New York to spur job creation, and helped bring tightrope walker Nik Wallenda to Niagara Falls for an international media event.
"We are certainly moving in the right direction, but there's a lot of work to be done, and that was my message," Ceretto said. "The people here accepted me and that message, and gave me the opportunity to continue to work for the people in this area. And for that, I'm humbled."
Islanders can expect to see more of Ceretto in the coming months. They first saw him on the campaign trail in the first week of April near Easter.
"I remember going back to the Assembly chambers after the break and my fellow colleagues asking me where I went to Florida, because I had a nice tan," Ceretto said. "And I said, 'I didn't go anywhere. I was walking door to door.' We walked Grand Island April, May, June, July and part of August."
Ceretto said in total he visited 10,000 homes in the district, and, even in his off election year, he plans to continue walking door to door.
"I always bring my platform, my voice and my message right to the people," Ceretto said. "So we'll be walking door to door this summer and the people on Grand Island are going to see me again, but this time my message will be 'I am your New York state assemblyman. Is there anything that I can do to help you?' "