Chautuaqua County residents will vote for a new county executive on Nov. 5. The two running - Democrat Ron Johnson and Republican Vince Horrigan - are newcomers in this level of governing.
Johnson, who for years has served as Pomfret town justice, is the owner and operator of Johnson Adult Homes in Fredonia and lead developer of Fredonia Place. He is a combat veteran of the Vietnam conflict, and a retired Chautauqua County deputy sheriff.
Horrigan, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, is the former executive director of the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York, which included Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
Both have proven to be energetic in running this year's campaign. But there are some major differences in the ways both envision the leadership position.
Johnson is adamant that his administration will do everything it can to make Chautauqua County a better and thriving place. He promises to have an aggressive approach to job creation by creating a full inventory of development sites so county officials can better market vacant buildings and to build more industrial parks. He also is confident he can make the Chautauqua County Home, which is running a $3 million deficit without additional government funding, at least a break-even proposition though many have doubts as to whether that is possible.
Horrigan, however, wants just the opposite with the Home. He believes the sale of the Home to a private sector purchaser is what will ultimately save the Dunkirk facility for the future. His beliefs are in line with a recent study on the future of county homes, which was put together by the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester.
In recent months, Johnson bemoaned the 7,700 jobs the county has lost over the past seven years during the administration of Greg Edwards. Horrigan is a little more upbeat. He talks about plans to fill the 3,400 manufacturing jobs that will be open as baby boomers retire over the next five years and he has a desire for the county to do its part developing a high-quality, work-ready pool of workers.
The difference between the two on the jobs issue is a microcosm of the campaign as a whole. Johnson brings much energy to the table, but it is largely unfocused. Horrigan's past history puts him in the best position to move the county forward. He was a four-term member of the Bemus Point Village Board followed by one term on the Chautauqua County Legislature. He has also been a key participant in the Rotary Club Employability Coalition that has been working to find ways to help make county residents more employable. He is in the best position to move this county forward to a better economic position. We believe his stance on filling jobs that will be open in the coming years, training upcoming workers, understanding our need to pay closer attention to tourism marketing and the need to be fiscally responsible is what this county needs and will get with Horrigan at the wheel.
His approach promises a balanced, predictable path for the county's next four years, and we endorse his candidacy for Chautauqua County executive.