Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove released the following statement Tuesday morning:
"For nearly 12 years, I have had the honor of representing the fine people of both the City and the Town of Lockport. I have met countless wonderful people and fostered many great relationships that I will forever value. Now it is time for me to enter the next phase of my life, one that will not include another campaign for Niagara County Legislature.
"During my time as a legislator, I have always believed that it is a privilege to serve. It requires dedication, time and, often, sacrifice. Despite those challenges, my goal was to make my community and this county a better place to live, work and raise a family. As I approach 12 years in office, I am pleased with the progress we have made, and confident that even better days lie ahead.
"As the majority leader of the Niagara County Legislature, I have often been the face of the Legislature on the multitude of important issues we face each and every day. Some have been more significant that others, but every issue impacts someone on some level. As the leader of our caucus, I have always taken that into consideration, and always tried to lead on the basis of what is best for our entire constituency. Not every decision has been easy, and we certainly haven't agreed on every issue, but the advancements we have made are measurable and significant.
"Among the accomplishments I am most proud of is the elimination of lifetime health care for legislators. This legislation, while often forgotten, will ultimately save the taxpayers of Niagara County millions of dollars. Sponsoring this legislation as a relatively new legislator was not well received by many of the senior members of the Legislature, but I knew that it was the right thing to do, and pushed for its passage.
"I am also very proud of the fact that the county tax rate is 12 percent lower now than it was the day I took office. Despite annually increasing expenses and ever-increasing unfunded mandates from the state, our financial responsibility to the people of this county has remained my No. 1 priority. Every year since I've been in office, the Legislature has acted prudently and conscientiously. I have taken the impact on the taxpayer into consideration on every decision made. Our decisions have returned fiscal stability to Niagara County. In fact, Moodys bond rating service has upgraded our bond rating three times, and it now sits at superior. This is especially significant to me, as the county was coming off a 20-percent tax increase when I made the decision to run for office the first time.
"In addition to serving as majority leader, I have also had the opportunity to lead the county's economic development committee. I was able to bring about several marketing initiatives aimed at drawing employers to Niagara County, including our very successful Canadian marketing campaign and rehabilitation of brownfield sites spoiled by industrial pollution - a program that has benefited local sites like the Dussault Foundry, the Kohl Cycle site, and other contaminated sites along the Eighteenmile Creek.
"Moreover, though, the hard numbers point to success: 2014 saw $96.2 million in new private investment resulting from Niagara County Industrial Development Agency projects, the creation of 238 new jobs and the retention of 550 jobs. This follows 2013's $59.9 million in new private investment, 330 new jobs and 275 jobs retained. We also created Empower Niagara to utilize relicensing power to assist local businesses. This has resulted in over $30 million in private capital investment since its inception.
"However, few actions I've been directly involved with have been as visible as the decision on the part of the Niagara County Legislature to return the previously county-held property on Day Road to the Town of Lockport so that we could build the Day Road Park. Every day, I drive past that park, and I see families using the playground, kids playing soccer and friends walking their dogs. Had we not acted, the county would still hold that land, and there would be no park.
"I would be remiss if I did not thank my colleagues in the legislature. Over the past 12 years, we've consistently worked collaboratively for the betterment of Niagara County, and I am confident that they will continue to do so. I also want to thank my parents, who, through many elections, comprised my entire campaign team. Lastly, I want to thank the people of Lockport who have graciously placed their faith in me over the past 12 years. I remain honored and humbled by their support, and am forever grateful for the opportunity to work on their behalf."