Right place at right time

When we think of picnics we usually think of relaxation and good food; rarely do we include opportunities for meeting with and listening to the dreams and aspirations of our elected officials.

I, along with more than 50 of my fellow citizens, did just that last week. Not only did my husband Richard and friend Mike Edwards Sr. treat us to grilled burgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings, but we also enjoyed the camaraderie of some outstanding individuals. It was truly a time for saying goodbye as well as hello.

County Clerk Sandy Sopak said goodbye after giving 20 years to our county with dedication, humor, integrity and unmatched energy. She began her first term in 1994.

Sandy has been quoted as saying, “When I walked into the clerk’s office that first day, it was as if time stood still and we were still in the 1800s.” As a result of her efforts, the next county clerk will have a much easier time. Of course, we need to fill the seat with someone who has actually managed a business – someone like Larry Barmore.

We have too often seen the “good ole boy” system when it comes to filling vacancies. We can’t let that happen anymore, we need proficiency in our elected offices. Barmore is a man of integrity with 44 years of private sector business where he has managed people, worked within a budget and delivered service to the public. His experience will allow him to make a seamless transition into the county clerk’s office. This position should not be a stepping-stone to a higher office, this position needs an individual with vast experience and a sense of dedication but most importantly, it needs someone who actually wants to be county clerk, that individual is Barmore.

We are also saying goodbye to County Executive Greg Edwards. Greg has served our county tirelessly for eight years. He has shown unequaled integrity, dedication and purpose. Under his leadership we have seen the county government run and operate like a business. At our recent picnic he served up that potato salad with gusto, grace and always a smile. Greg is supporting Vince Horrigan to replace him as County Executive, and the county and city Republican Committees have joined him in this endorsement.

Vince Horrigan is a retired USAF colonel with 27 years of service. He has served as a four term elected village trustee. He is not just excited about becoming our next county executive, he is passionate about it. He has a mission to create a culture of confidence across the county. I asked Mr. Horrigan just how he would do this, and this is what he said. “We have to get people working in this area, and we can only do that by growing the private sector. We need to bring jobs into Western New York. We also have to operate with a leaner government. We have to look for ways to make our government more efficient and less burdensome on our taxpayers.

“Finally, there must be an increased opportunity for those who are currently on public assistance to develop their skills so that they can become employable and shake the shackles of welfare and Medicaid. These things can only be done by providing the ways and means to ensure that each of us is given the opportunity to accomplish our personal best.” I believe that Vince Horrigan is the right man to take the reins from Greg Edwards.

We will miss and think of Sandy Sopak and Greg Edwards often, but the man I will miss most at the helm is former Mayor Richard Frey. Dick Frey served Dunkirk for 10 years as mayor. He was fearless when faced with obstacles, and even though he is no longer in office, he has never stopped believing in Dunkirk and its citizens.

The Dunkirk Republican Committee honored Mayor Frey this past week, and it was my pleasure to be a part of it. Mayor Frey not only served our community for 10 years, he had a long career in the private sector as well. He served in Korea and earned the Purple Heart. As mayor, his interests were not self-serving, he wanted to see our area thrive through community revitalization and economic development this is evidenced by the waterfront development, the Boardwalk, the SUNY Fredonia Incubator, the recreational parks and the list goes on.

Finally it would not be a picnic without a little humor. With the Firemen’s pavilion filled with chatter we were quieted when a very dapper gentleman strolled confidently into our midst. He introduced himself and apologized for being late as he explained his desire to be elected as justice for our supreme court. He spelled his name several times but it didn’t take long for him to realize that he was at the wrong picnic; he thanked us for our time and we showed appreciation for the levity he provided as we bid him farewell.

Sometimes it pays to be at the right place at the right time.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to