By Michael J. Billoni
After undergoing emergency triple bypass surgery on Sept. 20 at the Gates Vascular Institute in Buffalo, John Whitney returned home four days later and said he absolutely remains the endorsed Republican and Independence Party candidate for Town of Grand Island supervisor.
“Do you really think a little triple bypass is going to keep me down?” he replied when asked if he was continuing as the candidate and participating in the first Supervisor Candidate’s Night, presented by the Rotary Club of Grand Island, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Grand Viking Theater of Grand Island High School, 1100 Ransom Road.
The Candidate’s Night event is free and residents are encouraged to attend to learn about the three candidates for the town’s highest elected office: Tom Franz, Jim Sharpe and Whitney. This will not be a debate, but the candidates will answer pre-submitted questions by residents or written out that evening. There will be no questions shouted from the audience. Email questions to [email protected]
On Sept. 20, Whitney arrived for a pre-scheduled stress test but was sent to GVI for an angiogram that showed an emergent need for the surgery. “I feel like I have been tackled numerous times by Lorenzo Alexander of the Bills,” he posted Sept. 21 on his Facebook page. “But with rest, time and some healing vibes, I will be good to go.”
Franz, a 1982 graduate of GIHS, calls himself: “Your neighbor who never had a desire to run for political office,” stating two years ago he was asked by neighbors to consider running for town office.
“Grand Island is a special and unique place that I truly love,” he said.
He has followed his father’s footsteps in pursuing a law enforcement career and is now in his 28th year with 13 of them as a Grand Island Police officer. His daughter resides in Washington, D.C., after graduating from American University and his son is a junior at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
“I am a leader of men and women in both my full and part-time law enforcement jobs and I know the only way to accomplish goals is to work as a team,” he added.
Sharpe, currently the deputy town supervisor and no stranger to Town Hall, has spent more than 50 years serving his community and country, beginning in 1966 when he joined the United States Air Force. He returned home to work for several large organizations in a variety of technical fields. His implementation of creative systems enhanced the educational experience, earning him regionwide recognition with such awards as the “Apple Excellence Award for Technology in Education” in 2006, and again in 2009.
During this time, he began devoting his life to public service, serving as president of the Grand Island Taxpayers Association from 1980 to 1987, and in 1990 he successfully ran for Town Council and was re-elected in 1994. He served as deputy supervisor from 1992-94, and most recently was appointed deputy supervisor in 2016, a volunteer position in which he devotes well over 40 hours a week. In his current position, he manages the town’s community grants, having secured over $2 million for projects such as sidewalks, an elevator in Town Hall, the town’s comprehensive master plan, the local waterfront revitalization program, and the agriculture and farmland protection plan.
He has also been quite active in the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, serving as president and several key officer positions while receiving numerous awards. Passionate about preserving Grand Island for future generations, he has been chair of the Long Range Planning Committee since 2006. The American Planning Association recently awarded him the Public Education Planning Award for the town’s 1998 and 2018 comprehensive master plans, its local waterfront revitalization program and the agriculture and farmland protection plan, which were all created under his supervision.
He resides on Grand Island with his wife, Cindy, and son, Eric.
Whitney, a licensed professional engineer in New York state, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Clarkson University in civil and environmental engineering and a Master of Engineering degree from SUNY Buffalo. He began with the town as its assistant municipal engineer in 1986. He was promoted to assistant town engineer in 1996 and town engineer in 2002. In 2005, the Town Board consolidated the water, wastewater and engineering departments into the Department of Engineering and Water Resources and Whitney was placed in charge of that newly consolidated department. He retired in 2017 as town engineer.
With more than 31 years of experience working for Grand Island, he has been involved with projects involving every town department and has worked closely with many Erie County and New York State agencies. He has also worked closely with the Town Board and has served on the Special District’s Committee, Bike Path and Sidewalk Committee and the Plumbing Board.
He helped create a five-year capital improvement plan that is still used today to keep capital expenditures in check. “Having worked on all types of projects for Grand Island, I feel this experience is essential for the town supervisor position,” he said.