Alderman Phillip R. “Russ” Rizzo will retire from public service next month, and released the following statement:
“Serving my neighbors in North Tonawanda has been the greatest privilege of my life. I have always strived to deliver effective representation for the 1st Ward and principled leadership for our city as Council President.
“In particular, I’m proud that on my watch, we alleviated flooding issues on Witmer Road, gave our auxiliary police the tools they needed, and continued our progress in redeveloping North Tonawanda’s downtown into an upscale destination.
“As many of you know, I have had my fair share of challenges this year, but was recently given a clean bill of health by my doctor. While I have loved working to make NT a stronger community, this gave me the opportunity to reflect, and I came to the realization that I had accomplished all the goals I set when I first decided to run for office.
“That realization, and a belief that our city would be well served by bringing in some fresh ideas, is why I have decided to make February 2nd my last day in office. I wish Mayor Pappas and my colleagues on the Council success in all things, and I leave with nothing but love for this great city and her people.”
The decision by longtime political fixture Philip R. “Russ” Rizzo to retire from public life marks the end of a great career in civic service, and is a bittersweet occasion for local Republicans and the North Tonawanda community, the head of the Lumber City’s Republican Party said tonight.
“Russ Rizzo’s passion for improving this community and helping his neighbors always set him apart as a leader,” NT Republican Chairman Mike Carney said, after Rizzo informed him of his decision to step down from the city’s Common Council, just days after declining to seek another term as the body’s president. “He will be sorely missed.”
Chairman Carney pointed to Rizzo’s record, including his success, during his sole term as a county legislator, in brokering a deal between the city, Wheatfield, Niagara County, and state representatives, to alleviate flooding on Witmer Road—something Rizzo has long held up as his proudest accomplishment—as evidence of the lawmaker’s tenacity.
“Russ didn’t believe people when they told him something was too ambitious,” Chairman Carney said. “He saw government’s job as fixing problems and protecting homeowners.”
Chairman Carney then rattled off a list of Rizzo’s boldest accomplishments, including spearheading initiatives that redeveloped the marina at Gratwick-Riverside Park and secured a long-term lease to open a restaurant there, efforts to equip auxiliary police and the Gratwick Hose volunteer fire company, and his strong advocacy for re-launching the Canalside Concert Series.
“Russ was very often ‘Mr. North Tonawanda,’” Chairman Carney said. “He also did a fantastic job getting back to his constituents, calling them back, staying on top of their issues. He challenged our Republican-led city government to work as diligently as he did.”
Chairman Carney added that he wished Rizzo happiness in retirement.
“Russ has earned some time for himself and his family,” Chairman Carney said. “He made our community a better place to live; now he deserves to go out and enjoy that fact.”