Long-time public servant Steve Valentino is seeking election as the Democrat’s mayoral candidate this November.
Valentino, a former three-time Ward 3 Councilor questioned whether to continue serving the City of Geneva, but everything changed when he learned about who was competing in this election cycle, or not.
“But when I found out that seven out of the nine councilors had decided to not run again, I was very concerned. I like where Geneva is going so I wanted to keep the continuity,” Valentino said.
He calls this upcoming election, “a critical point in Geneva” and told the Democratic Town Committee that he would not turndown any position that they would request him to assume during this cycle.
Valentino mentioned that he “got his feet wet” during his early political career by bringing in businesses, most notably the Ramada and Guardian Glass as two of his greatest accomplishments while in office, but takes even greater pride in showcasing Geneva’s growth over the years.
“One of the biggest things that makes me happy is when I sit here and I have people that come back to Geneva that haven’t been here in a while and we have that wow factor where Geneva has changed and Geneva has evolved,” Valentino said.
Valentino believes that efficiencies are extremely important, especially for taxpayers.
“You know, I would love to say that the city is where it needs to be. I think the biggest thing for me is the city is heading in the right direction,” he continued.
Valentino acknowledges both sides and agrees that while some parts of the city are great, improvements are still much-needed.
“The city is great but I think it’s at a pinnacle point,” he added.
Although being labelled as “the guy with the rose-colored glasses,” Valentino believes that his proverbial spectacles do not taint his perceptions of Geneva, even as the Democratic mayoral candidate.
“Geneva was great when it was back in the 50s and 60s when the Seneca Army Depot was hopping. There was a nucleus here that people would gravitate to from all over the place; and Geneva took a downfall in the 70s and 80s and really had to work hard for that revitalization. And it wasn’t ‘til the last 10 or 15 years where we turned that corner; we’ve made strides,” Valentino said.
In reference to an initial press-release “We have a diverse group and that diverse group all has one thing in common: we want Geneva to be a better place to live, work and play,” he stated.
Valentino has been self-critical in becoming more open-minded to new ideas and diverse opinions from his fellow Democratic candidates across the slate.
“I don’t think there’s anyone on the Democratic slate that doesn’t care about Geneva, that doesn’t love Geneva; and I can even say the same thing for the Republican slate,” Valentino said.
Calling his own party’s platform “poised” and the overall task of an elected official as “a thankless job,” Valentino acknowledges that satisfaction drives performance as a public servant.
“But the gratitude that you get from moving the pendulum and making things work in the City of Geneva is key to the satisfaction,” he added.
Pivoting from the Democrats, Valentino speaks candidly about his opposition, Republican mayoral candidate Mark Salvatore Pitifer.
“When I went into the service in ’78 and went into the Army, I lost touch with the city for about three-years but as soon as I come back it’s like we didn’t missed a beat,” Valentino said.
Valentino also wished that he would not have to face an opponent he respects and loves as much as Pitifer.
Earlier this year, Pitifer told him that he was going to run for mayor but asked Valentino to stay in Ward 3 in an effort to collaborate at City Council; Valentino disagreed, but not in ill-taste.
“Mark, great idea, but too late. We are going to go head-to-head and we’re going to run a campaign, we both agreed on this that this should be exemplary, not for only for the city, county, state but it should be for the nation,” he stated.
As a self-described fiscally-conservative Democrat, Valentino borrows beliefs from both sides and across the aisles.
“But for me and Mark’s relationship, we want to set the stage that you can voice your opinion, you can run for office, you don’t have to have a large bank to do that; you have to be a good person and care and have the values that’ll move your city or municipality forward,” Valentino stated.
In regards to Seneca Lake, Valentino acknowledges that although one train track is an emergency-line that must remain due to federal mandates, the rest of the railyard can be removed.
But he draws the line and differs with Pitifer’s proposal to obscure the communities settled on the opposite side of 5&20 from the lakefront.
“There’s a neighborhood: it’s Middle Street, it’s Wadsworth Street. There’s a whole neighborhood there that I think deserves the opportunity to have better access to the lakefront,” Valentino said.
Despite not being a firm believer to build a catwalk across 5&20, Valentino still seeks to explore many possibilities and eventually bring forth a solution to provide greater access to the lakeside for residents within and surrounding Ward 6, if elected.
Valentino believes that this will be a close race for him and asks voters to “take a deep look” at every candidate on the ballot, especially the mayoral candidates.
“I compliment Mark and everything that he does but at this point in time, in the pinnacle point we are in the city, I really think there is a level of experience that needs to kind of carry this on forward and carry this next council for the next four years, to be able to keep the momentum going in the right direction, and not only keep it in the right direction but kind of pass the baton on to the next generation,” he concluded.
Check out the full-conversation below:
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to WEOS and WHWS Station Manager Greg Cotterill for sharing Geneva Candidate Snapshots with FingerLakes1.com.
More from ‘Candidate Snapshot’ series exclusively on FingerLakes1.com:
– Juanita Aikens looks to bring better representation to Geneva City Hall (Ward 6)
– Bryan Housel brings public safety background to campaign for Geneva City Council (Ward 5)
– Pitifer takes life journey onto Geneva mayoral campaign trail (Mayor)
– Salamendra targets change through more than activism (Ward 5)
– Reporting & Photos by Gabriel Pietrorazio
An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently a reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at [email protected].