2017 election: Town Council Candidate Jennifer Baney

Today’s candidate interview is with Jennifer
Baney, Republican Party candidate for Grand Island’s Town Council. Jennifer, age 37, is
running for one of two open seats on the Town Council. The incumbents, Ray
Billica and Chris Aronica, have chosen not to run for re-election. The election
will be held on November 7th.

Tell me about you.
grew up in Wheatfield, in the hamlet of Bergholz. My dad worked for Harrison
Radiator, which is now Delphi, and my mom taught kindergarten. Their names are Ronald
and Sherryl. From my earliest recollection, I always wanted to be a teacher. In
middle school, we were required to share our professional aspirations, and one
teacher actually told those of us who were planning on becoming teachers to
reconsider, as, by the time we graduated, 
all teachers would be replaced by robots. I would love to run into him
again someday. 

Fortunately, I did not heed his advice. I went on and got a
degree in education and psychology from Houghton College. I actually secured a
teaching position before I graduated. I spent the final week of my senior year
teaching, and I had to take my exams at night and take a day off of teaching to
graduate. I taught middle school English/Language Arts. There were no robots in
the building whatsoever. That position led to a one year long sub position in
North Tonawanda, which led to my ultimate career goal, which was nearly a
decade as a tenured teacher in the Williamsville School District.
met my husband, Brian, at Houghton, and we describe our 20s as our busy years.
We were both teaching. Brian was teaching physical education and coaching wrestling,
and we were both working on our master’s degrees. We were never home, so we
decided to live in a trailer to pay off all of our school debt and to cash flow
(pay cash for) our master’s degrees. It was one of the best choices we ever
made. I earned my master’s degree from UB in education and literacy.  I also spent a lot of time during those years
involved in youth mentorship, working with high schoolers on evenings and
weekends. It was one of the most demanding, yet rewarding, endeavors I have
ever undertaken. To this day, those students who are now adults are very much
part of our lives. We were busy but, being married at 23 and not having
children afforded us some unique opportunities.
Could you describe some of those opportunities?

2008, we spent a portion of our summer in Swaziland, Africa. We were there for
about two and a half weeks. At the time, Swaziland was believed to be the
country with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in Africa. We showed up and learned that
a whole generation was missing. Grandparents were raising their grandchildren
and, when grandparents weren’t present, siblings were raising each other. We
partnered with a man from Tonawanda to provide educational programming and
hospital visitation, and we even prepared a retreat for women. He was working
with an organization. We went through our church, Kenmore Alliance. 

That trip
was significant in the sense that it truly helped to mold my attitude toward
service. So here I was at 25, having met my career goals and not sure what to
do next. My principal sat me down and asked if I wanted to get on an
administrative track, starting to learn about degree programs and go to some
dinners regarding school administration. What I told him shocked him. That,
within a few years I would be stepping back from education for quite some time
to raise my children. He didn’t believe me until I turned 30, was pregnant with
my first son, Simeon, and told him that I would not be returning.
was it like to have a young family and to choose to be a stay-at-home mom?
a very uncommon decision to make when you teach in Williamsville, but it was
the right decision for us. Early motherhood was far from an easy journey for
me. When Simeon turned one, I became very ill. My body stopped clearing itself
of lactic acid, which resulted in muscle fatigue and even the inability to care
for my son. My parents came to help me nearly every single day. I was passed
from doctor to doctor until I was sent to Dr. Brass. He‘s an infectious disease
specialist and often considered the Dr. House of Buffalo, the man who takes the
cases when no other doctors know what to do. We examined everything from a mitochondrial
disorder to an auto immune disease. I even went for genetic testing. Amazingly,
a combination of his treatment and naturopathic treatment, including diet and
vitamin supplement treatments very specific to my symptoms over a course of six
months, led to a full recovery.  Thankfully,
I was even able to have another child, Titus Joshua, who was born in June of
2015. Simeon was born on 11/11/11.
you recovered, how did you get involved in your community?
experience strengthened our marriage, and it helped me to focus on living every
day with intention. So here I was, a mom with a one year old and ton of
flexibility in my schedule. I got involved in two large moms’ groups, one of
which I was the finance coordinator for. As my son got older, I was able to
serve on his school board. 

This past summer, I was asked to serve as the site
administrator for a large youth camp. I committed to work at this camp if we
could serve as a family. Brian headed up security and the boys were along for
the ride. We feel that the best way to teach service is to model it for our
boys. Additionally, next week, I am serving as chairperson of a large college
fair coming to Buffalo. I was asked to fill this role to increase attendance
and, so far, things are looking very promising.
are many people who could teach full time and parent well at the same time. I
couldn’t do both well at the same time. Plus, if elected, I committed very
early on to not pursuing or accepting any employment during those four years.
Our town deserves it.
did you move to Grand Island and what do you think of the town?

moved to Grand Island in 2009. We paid off our debt and, with the goal of
wanting to stay at home, we wanted to find a community with a good school
system, convenient location to our jobs, and a bit of open space. My husband
always lived in rural areas growing up, so green space was a bit of a requirement
for him. Grand Island was affordable in a way that other towns in Erie county
weren’t, and we’re never leaving. 

Grand Island is our home. I love the small
town feel of it, having grown up in Bergholz. I like the fact that the school
district has a strong emphasis on both character and achievement, as well as
our proximity to nature. I can see Canada from my bedroom window, and that’s
pretty fantastic. I’ve been known to make welcome packets for friends that I
convinced to move to the island.
made you decide to run for Town Council?
many, I did not pursue politics. Politics pursued me. My oldest son is
ambitious and asked to go meet with our supervisor in the fall of 2016. He
shared his four-year-old vision for the island, and the staff there was
incredibly kind. This led to my increased involvement in Island happenings,
which ultimately led to me speaking at a town board meeting about leadership. 
At the end of the meeting, Councilman Ray Billica came to find me and asked if
we could talk. I was terrified. I had no idea of what I did but was glad to
hear that he was not angry. He was direct in that he wanted to speak to me
about pursuing a council position that he would be vacating and wanted to chat
about both my skill set and willingness to do so. 

Over the next month or so, he
and I spent a lot of time talking. I asked the poor man hundreds of questions. I
gave him a campaign bracelet, and until November 7th, no one will see him out
in public without it on.
 In the end, I
committed to pursuing the position, as the Baneys are not ones to squander
opportunities. I committed to interviewing for endorsements and am proud to say
that I received every party endorsement that I pursued. In some cases, my first
time meeting those interviewing me was at a candidacy announcement meeting or
an interview. Say what you will about political parties, but when someone not
affiliated with a party can walk in, interview, and earn the endorsement, it’s
me about your experience with the campaign process.
somewhat of a realist. So I did not go into the process blindly. There have
been hurtful things said or insinuated about me but, thankfully, I do have a
pretty thick skin. I just don’t respond, and I often find myself asking the
question, “How do good leaders handle adversity?” Then I would say, in my view,
leadership, the majority of the time, is just service. Period. Most of the
time, it’s not glamorous, and a lot of the time, if you’re doing your job well,
no one will notice. I love this town, and I want to do my part to make sure the
leaders of it are people of integrity with high moral character.
is your vision for the town?
really four pillars. My first pillar focuses on board civility. That will occur
when the town demands it. It is not an unreasonable request. Surely, every one
of us has had jobs, where we do not agree with people, yet are required to work
collaboratively with them and not slander or belittle them in public or on
social media. 

There is guilt on both sides in this area, and it only hurts our
town. All I can control is my 20 percent of a five-person board, but the town
can control board civility in who they elect and in their communications to the
town board on their behavior and actions.

second pillar has to do with collaboration between the town board and our
varied educational entities. With our schools being such a large part of our
community, to me it’s a good idea that someone on the board should have a
background in education. The better our district and our town work together,
the more favorable results there will be for our citizens.

third pillar has to do with citizen engagement. One can probably sense by now,
I don’t run in political circles. In fact, if I had good friends or family
members serving on the board, I wouldn’t pursue a position. Our job as council
members is not to just provide guidance and make decisions, but to reach as
many citizens as possible for their feedback and guidance. I know a great many
people who excel in their workplace and give their volunteer time to worthy
organizations, yet are not involved in town politics. I’d like to use my
connections and relationships to see that change to benefit our town.

fourth pillar is fiscal prudence. In our home, I manage the budget and have
done so in a way that allows us to live on one income. I believe that, as a
town, we can have nice things, but that we should access grants and be creative
to do so. I believe that board members must trust our town employees in their
area of expertise when we craft budgets or make financial decisions. In terms
of issues, they change. We can discuss the current issues at the forum, but the
issues before us in two years will be entirely different. That said, integrity
and a strong moral compass should be considered when determining who to vote
really want to win. I love collaborating with Pete Marston. We’ve approached
this as a team from the beginning, being humble enough to admit our weaknesses
and get feedback from each other. The feedback from within the town on this
approach has been amazing. But, at the end of the day, if I were to lose, I
will not be shaken. My identity is not found in a position. My faith, my
character, and the support of my family will propel me forward, regardless of
the outcome. But there’s nothing that I’d be more excited about or humbled by
than the opportunity to serve this town for the next four years.

Coming tomorrow: an interview with Town Council candidate Celia Spacone.

6 thoughts on “2017 election: Town Council Candidate Jennifer Baney”

  1. Thanks for sharing this interview. I'm very impressed with your wise financial and family planning goals.
    Cash for education?
    Paying off your student loans?
    Waiting to have children and then leaving your job to raise them?
    Wow, you've lived more responsibility and with intention than most people. And you're not even halfway done with living.
    Thanks, Alice for sharing these little glimpses into the folks in your community.
    It actually gives me a tiny sliver of hope that not all politicians are slimy self-seeking people. ^_^

  2. Very impressive, engaging interview, good questions! You described it well. Based on this interview, I would consider voting for the candidate as you present a very comprehensive picture, her background, goals, solid core values for this responsible position and role model of building and raising a family.

    Thank you, enjoyed reading the post.

  3. Her experience as a teacher and her nature/ attitude is inspiring to read about. I wish Jennifer wins the election. THanks for sharing the interview.

  4. The Gratitude Guru

    WIse beyond your years! It is nice to see the responsibility come through in a climate that is so Me Me Me!

    Best of luck!

  5. I didn't think I'd find reading about a candidate in someone else's town very relevant to my own situation, but you made it interesting enough to make me wish this person were running in my town. Good job. I am somewhat involved in trying to hold our own city council and board of county supervisors to account, and I campaign for those I believe in. I really hate having to do this, but I realize I have no right to complain about an outcome I don't like if I don't get involved in the process.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top