by Joshua Maloni
The Lewiston Democratic Party is poised to have a Democrat run for the village's top office for the first time in two decades.
Local businesswoman Jamie Symmonds said she's entering Tuesday's caucus with the intent of being selected to represent her party in what appears to be a race with incumbent Mayor Terry Collesano.
"I want to run for mayor because ... I grew up in Lewiston and I am just passionate about the village in general," Symmonds said.
The owner of Angel to Apple Clothing & Shoe Boutique said, "Since opening the business eight years ago, I've become more and more involved - including being on the village Planning Board/Historic Preservation for several years. I'm involved with the Chamber of Commerce and several other committees, and I've gotten to know the community and the people in it. And I am passionate about making a difference.
"I think fresh ideas and fresh faces is always a good thing for any scenario. And so I want to get more involved."
Symmonds has worked to promote the local community and bolster the economy. She spearheaded the village's "Black Friday" events in 2012-13, and has worked with other retailers on joint promotions and events. A member of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, Symmonds also serves on the organization's board of directors and its Lewiston Advisory Committee. She chairs the Lewiston Christmas Walk and works with the It Happened to Alexa Foundation.
"I think it's important - especially with everything Lewiston is on the cusp of: big projects, a lot of development, we have a lot of activity continuing to grow here in the village - I believe I have a good working relationship with not only the business community, but a lot of the other local organizations, such as the chamber, the historical association and such," Symmonds said. "I think that that's important. I think it's important that, as a community, you work as a community. It shouldn't be compartmentalized. We all have to live and work and play here, and I think we should all be working together."
Former Mayor Richard Soluri appointed Symmonds to the Planning Board in 2009. She served in that capacity until 2013, when Collesano declined to re-appoint her to the board.
"From being involved over the last couple years, (though) I'd say mostly in the last year, I've heard a lot of comments made by business owners, other organizations - even the residents - some concerns that they've had," Symmonds said. "I just think that, possibly, it's time for a fresh approach to things."
Symmonds said her time on the Planning Board showed, "I'm about being fair. There's rules in place for a reason. I believe in transparency; and, again, I'm all about community. I think it's so important that we all work together, and sometimes I feel that that's lacking."
When former Trustee Dennis Brochey resigned to take over as Town of Lewiston supervisor, Symmonds applied to replace him. Collesano appointed Daniel Gibson instead.
Symmonds initially sought a trustee position, but now seeks the position of mayor to "hopefully make an even bigger difference."
She called the village "just beautiful," and said, "It's charming. It's quaint. The people are friendly. I love our main street. I love our restaurants. ... I do my best to shop locally, as well, because I just love Lewiston."
The Lewiston Democratic Party caucus is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at the Cornerstone Credit Union community meeting room (Rite-Aid plaza) on Center Street.
Right now, it's unknown if other Democrats will compete against Symmonds.
Lewiston Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Perri Roberts said it was premature to comment on who may or may not participate in Tuesday's caucus, but said it's encouraging to have a woman interested in serving as mayor.
"I'm excited at the fact that there's, No. 1, a female who wants to run for something in Lewiston. ... And No. 2, that she's not looking for just a ... spot as a trustee, but she's working to run for mayor to do good for the village. I think that's a great thing."
Symmonds said, "I just think it's important, because we are such a small community and everybody should have a voice, (that) everybody should get out and vote - no matter who you're voting for.
"I think it's important that we have that luxury, and that we should all get involved."
Marilyn Toohey, a Democrat, served as village mayor from 1978 until 1994 - the year Soluri was elected. He ran unopposed in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The Democrats endorsed Collesano, a Republican, in 2010.
Though he hasn't formally announced his plans, Collesano is expected to run for a second term. The GOP also expects trustees Bruce Sutherland and Vic Eydt to run for re-election. Gibson will seek election to fulfill the remainder of Brochey's term (two years).
The Republican caucus is April 29. The village election is June 17.