Wednesday, November 1, 2017

2017 election: Town Council candidate Pete Marston, Jr.

Today's candidate interview is with Pete Marston, Jr., Republican candidate for Grand Island’s Town Council. Pete, who is in the business of repairing lawnmowers, took me along for the ride on his lawnmower pick up and delivery rounds. Pete, age 48, 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.

This is the last in a series of interviews of town council candidates. Tomorrow and Friday, I will post interviews of candidates for town judge.

You can find the other three interviews here:

Tell me about you.

I am an avid snowmobiler, owner of Marston’s Power Equipment, and chairman of the Grand Island Planning Board.

I was fourteen years old in 1983. We moved here three days before I started ninth grade. I used to live in Cheektowaga. My dad was a general contractor. He did most of his work in Niagara Falls so this was a good spot for us to relocate. I have one sister, Lynn Dingey, who is active with Relay for Life. We are both active in our community so that’s how we were raised. I feel that you should be yourself and do your thing. My wife is Sue Marston, a life-long islander, who was raised here. We have one little boy, Pete III. He is almost ten. My son is my mini-me. I am Pete Junior. My father, Pete, is 75, and my mom, Carol, is 70. They live in Grand Island. We call my dad Slick because I got tired of being called Junior. Until recently, my dad and I rode sleds together.

How did you get into the lawnmower business? What was your career dream as a kid?

I graduated from Grand Island High School in 1987, and I went to Niagara County Community College for mechanical engineering. I found out pretty quickly that I wasn’t a desk job type of guy. So I went to work for some friends of the family (snowmobile dealers), fixing snowmobiles. That was obviously a pretty good fit. I always said, that if I could, I would open my own business doing small engine repairs. I started my business fixing lawnmowers in 2001. I wasn’t well trained in lawnmower repair, but I picked it up pretty quickly. I enjoy doing it on the island because I like to help the people. I really enjoy the people of Grand Island. I enjoy the area. I drive an average of 15,000 miles per year on Grand Island. I like that I live here, work here, and that I can go to Tops and see my friends. I like our small town values. I’m comfortable. At the end of the day, if I make less money but enjoy what I do and who I do it for, that is what drives me. 

I’ve been riding around with you, and I’ve notice how adeptly you drive and back up with the trailer attached to your truck. How did you get these driving skills?
When I was twelve years old, my father was hired to paint the Lancaster Speedway. So I went to work to “help” him. What I really did was learn to drive his truck around the racetrack. It was a four-speed manual transmission with a clutch. I learned pretty young how to drive equipment. Admittedly, I could drive just about anything.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re  not working?
am very passionate about snowmobiling. I do a little bit on the island with my wife and my little boy. We do a lot of weekend adventures in Canada. Three years ago, we rode 700 miles in three days. We went around Algonquin Park. It was beautiful. There is one point where you ride the Quebec-Ontario border for 150 miles. We were 50 miles away from a glass of water. It was pretty intense. I really love the wildlife that I’ve seen. Over the past few years, I’ve seen a fox, a mink, a beaver – all on the snowmobile trail. There were obviously a lot of deer. I saw two bear cubs in one day, which startled me because I thought that they hibernated. Three years ago, I rode up on a Canadian timberwolf on the trail. It was one of the beautiful animals that I’d ever seen and it was not scared of me. It was, I guess, 140 pounds, very fluffy. I’ve never seen a moose and am kind of glad that I haven’t. They’re really big and they might attack, and they don’t like the snowmobile sounds.

I’ve been involved with making snowmobile trails for quite a long time. I helped with the West River Trail when it officially became a snowmobile trail. We actually advocated for and had some influence on them building the Buckhorn bridge, with a wider shoulder so it actually accommodates snowmobiles, as well as pedestrian traffic. I’ve helped lay out many trails on the island for the snowmobile club, and I’ve helped sign them. I don’t think that all trails should be snowmobile trails, but I love the multiuse trail concept.

What made you decide to run for Town Board?
I’ve been involved with the Planning Board. I joined at the end of 2013, and I’ve enjoyed it. I was very comfortable volunteering my time for the town. This year, when Ray Billica and Chris Aronica decided not to seek re-election, many people asked me to become more involved so I did a lot of soul searching because I don’t take the position lightly, and I decided to run for it. I enjoy people. I’m humble and I don’t like to talk about myself. I like to talk about the issues and other people’s problems but not about myself so much. I love to problem solve. I love broken stuff and I love to fix it. If there’s a problem, I like to fix it or work toward a solution. There’s always compromise. It has to be the best for all.

What is your vision for Grand Island?

Grand Island is at a very interesting spot right now. We have a lot of land: a lot of business land and a lot of residential land. So we have most recently been targeted for more development. We can develop, but we need to be very cautious and do it smartly. We need to protect or green space and our open spaces. We need to improve our pedestrian conductivity. We need to keep a balance between residential apartments and commercial development in our town center. I think we have the apartment part under control, but we need more smart business: light/clean manufacturing, offices, and call center driven business – the kind of business that islanders would want to work at and could afford to work at. There’s nothing better for me personally than to work and and live on the island. If we could get the right businesses so people can live and work on the island, it will help with traffic, and it will help with everything. If you live on the island and work on the island, you will do more business here. It is an economic driver. More business would help us with our tax base. I have no interest in creating areas of density outside of the town center. I am pro-business but we have to be smart about it. I totally support the walkable town center.

Is there anything that you would like to add?

I am a very feet on the ground, hands-on kind of guy. I would say that what makes me unique is that I like to lead from the ground. I like to go face to face, talk to people, and figure out good solutions for all. I’m very much a people person. I don’t feel that I’m above anyone else. I’m one of them. I’m just a good old boy from the island who wants to make his community better.


Dr. Amrita Basu Misra said...

He can drive anything?That's pretty cool.I like how passionate all the people are about making Grand Island better.Its inspiring .People need to know that its in their hand. said...

Interesting take on a fellow who may be about to exert some real control on the future of a community.

Julia Garam said...

Great Interview Peter! You have my vote!