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Five Questions with Rich Fontana

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.

Buffalo Common Council President Richard A. Fontana during a Jan. 24 Council meeting in City Hall. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Richard A. Fontana

The basics
Age: 39
Job title:Buffalo Common Council president, representing Lovejoy district
Family: Wife, two children.
Education: Bachelor's degree in business management from Buffalo State College
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience: New York State licensed Realtor, restaurateur
City salary: $52,000 + $10,000 stipend as Council president

The questions
What's your favorite restaurant?
Growing up with sauce on Sunday, I always enjoy being able to walk into my brother’s restaurant kitchen (Fontana's Ogden Restaurant on William Street) and dip Luigi’s bakery’s bread in some sauce. But aside from family establishments, I really enjoy going to Wiechec's on Clinton Street in Kaisertown. Also, Scharf's Restaurant in Schiller Park. The service and German food are among the best anywhere.

What music have you been listening to lately?
I’ve always been a Huey Lewis and The News type of guy, but I mix it up with anything playing on the local stations. 103.3 the Edge, 97 Rock, and 104.1 broadcast live from Lovejoy, so I’m partial to them.

What's one thing people don't know about you?
I pitched an idea to Jay Leno through Father Joseph Moreno and he used some of it in his return to the Tonight Show. I suggested a dream sequence in which Jay was dreaming about all the time that elapsed since he left the show, and when he awakes as host again he says, “Boy, that was a bad dream, I’m glad I’m still the host." The show used the dream idea and brought in Betty White to start in the bit.

Who's your political hero?
At the age of 14, I met former Council President Delmar Mitchell at his home In Olean. Within an hour, I knew more about city politics than most people double my age. In his home he had his old City Hall office door with his name on it. The door was replaced with a more constituent-friendly glass door and Delmar was allowed to take the old door. Everyday I walk through the doorway I think about the wisdom he passed along to me regarding city government.

You used to be in the restaurant business. Anything you learned from doing that that’s helped you in your job on the Council?
The full-service restaurant business is one of the toughest businesses to run. Growing up in the business, I learned how to treat customers the way they need to be treated. That type of customer relations transcends well into a Council office. My staff members Bryan and Thomas and I treat residents like customers and never stop short of trying to help them resolve the issue.

Previous editions
Buffalo Common Council: Dave FranczykJoe GolombekDavid RiveraBonnie RussellDemone Smith
Erie County Legislature:  Betty Jean GrantThomas MazurJohn Mills 

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN


City of Buffalo | Common Council | Five Questions | Rich Fontana
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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |