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Home » News » Elections » CANDIDATE SNAPSHOT: Vasquez looks to elevate public service in Geneva

CANDIDATE SNAPSHOT: Vasquez looks to elevate public service in Geneva

Ben Vasquez battles for a spot as Geneva’s Councilor At-Large on behalf of the Republican Party.

Photo Credit: Gabriel Pietrorazio, FL1 News

Vasquez, a Waterloo police officer, member on the Geneva Board of Ethics as well as the founder and vice president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Progress believes that public service is a part of his body and blood.

“Public service has always been in my blood,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez recalls partaking in school service projects as a part of his graduation requirements, which has helped define his character and passion to help others.

“It just distilled that need for me to go out and help someone in the community, help a group, help an organization. I strive to go to bed at night knowing that I’ve helped someone in some way, whether that be small or large,” Vasquez stated.

But beyond promoting public service domestically, Vasquez and his academic background at Syracuse University with degrees in economics and creative leadership led to him founding the Institute for Middle East Peace and Progress, which has already began to assist high school students in the country of Lebanon and eventually plans to expand into other countries.

“But right now, we established a training program for juniors and seniors in high schools in Lebanon,” Vasquez said.

The established training program teaches resume writing and leadership skills among select students. Vasquez shared that the second step of this partnership with Lebanon encompasses offering scholarships for those same students to attend colleges and universities within the United States.

After graduation, Vasquez mentions that the Lebanon-nationals may return to their home-country in an effort for them to fill government positions and become leaders within their communities.

After completing a master’s degree in homeland security and applied intelligence from George Washington University, Vasquez asserts that his degree compliments his profession in law enforcement.

“That helps me as a manager in a police department, handling budgets, personal management so I can move-up into supervisory positions as well as greatly pertains to the Institute for Middle East Peace and Progress because of that international relations focus,” Vasquez said.

As for policing, Vasquez considers Geneva Chief of Police Michael Passalacqua’s performance as exceptional and believes that he is “doing an excellent job running the department.”

Vasquez also admits that challenges with community policing remains as a prevalent issue of concern while building trust between the Geneva Police Department and general public.

“In any department you struggle with community policing, building relationships with the community,” Vasquez added.

From his perspectives as a police officer, he argues that increased downtown patrols, walking beats and programs that connect officers with community assist in de-stigmatizing the police and functions as a “monumental role in the community feeling safe with those individuals that wear the uniform, that wear the badge and are out there protecting them day and night.”

Vasquez poses that police-organized town halls may help bridge the gap between the department and residents.

“I think they should hold town hall type meetings similar to how elected official would hold a town hall; and really hear concerns from the community and have an open dialogue right then and there about what concerns the community has and how the administration is going to address those concerns within the city,” he stated.

Another issue for Vasquez rests in cleaning-up the city’s playgrounds and parks to prevent from hyper-dermic needles lying around, which poses threats particularly to youth and children.

As for property taxes, his most important issue poses a “great burden on low-income and middle-class residents.”

Based on Vasquez’s evaluations, for every $80,000 that is accrued, the city’s overall debt is decreased by one-percent.

“So, essentially, getting more vacant properties back on the tax roll is going to generate more revenue,” Vasquez said.

Aside from expanding the tax-base, Vasquez also looks toward the Colleges to cooperate in imagining “creative solutions, creative avenues” that can leaven costs for more taxpaying residents.

In planning to connect and coordinate with anyone on City Council, Vasquez admits that he routinely brushes-up on his own techniques and leadership skills.

“The best attribute I think I bring to the table is the fact that I listen to anyone; it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Independent. I’ll work with anyone. I’ll listen to anyone’s concerns,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez also mentions that he will research the issues and explain to constituents his own decision-making process.

He even plans on passing along some research skills to his colleagues on City Council in an effort to “take them under my wing, if I can.”

Structurally, Vasquez seeks to establish monthly department reports that outline what each city department has accomplished and may still need assistance for within a public arena.

“If they have any requests for more funding or anything like that, request it in the public and that offers more transparency, which is a big issue this election cycle. I think that would be great for the public to see really what these departments are accomplishing and what their tax dollars are going towards,” Vasquez stated.

But most of all, Vasquez’s greatest goal for Geneva intends to focus on “lessening of financial burdens for families and see more city unification.”

As an expecting father, Vasquez also wishes to see more youth programs come back to the city.

“All that stuff is imperative for the growth of our children, of our youth and I’m expecting my first child here any day,” he said.

As a lifelong resident at the age of 25, Vasquez hopes to bring a “fresh young perspective” to City Council.

“I’m going to look at things much differently being a younger generation than someone much older than me is going to look at things,” Vasquez stated.

Despite being younger in comparison to other candidates, Vasquez assures the community that he is not shortsighted either in his aims or levels of experience. While studying full-time at Syracuse, Vasquez explained that he was also working full-time as a police officer in Waterloo to compliment his academic studies, emphasizing that public service is more than just a job.

“Public service is not job. Again, I’ve echoed this throughout the entire campaign, which is why I made the decision to donate my salary back to local charities or causes that directly benefit the community here in the City of Geneva. I don’t view this as a job. This isn’t going to help me advance my career in any way, shape or form. I want to implement change and I really want to help the residents of Geneva,” Vasquez concluded.

Listen to the full conversation with Vasquez below:

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to WEOS and WHWS Station Manager Greg Cotterill for sharing Geneva Candidate Snapshots with

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– 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].