BY JOE OLENICK email@example.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Maj. Ronald A. Franco, a retired Air Force combat veteran and currently a pilot for American Airlines, is the newly-appointed 2nd Ward alderman.
Franco, 50, a Republican, was appointed Tuesday by the person he’s succeeding, Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey. McCaffrey, who as Common Council president moved up to the city’s top post when former mayor Michael W. Tucker resigned Feb. 21, cited Franco’s experience and desire as reasons for his appointment.
“He definitely has a passion to help me get the city back on track,” McCaffrey said, adding she’d received seven or eight applicants for the appointment.
According to the city charter, while the mayor has the power to fill vacancies on the Common Council, the mayor must select an appointee who’s from the same political party as the alderman being replaced.
Franco’s term starts today, when he’s sworn-in tonight during McCaffrey’s formal inauguration at 6 p.m. today at the Palace Theatre, 2 East Ave. His biggest reason for applying was his feeling toward the city and its residents.
“I grew up in Lockport ... and the farther I travel, the more I find what how precious a hometown like Lockport is,” Franco said.
Notified Tuesday of the mayor’s decision, Common Council President Joseph C. Kibler said he believed Franco was a good selection. The at-large alderman said he knows Franco, as he had grown up with Kibler’s son.
“He should do a good job,” Kibler said. “It’s a good choice.”
Serving in the Air Force with the 328th Airlift Squadron from 1989 until 2004, Franco was an aircraft commander and instructor pilot, a chief of training, a night-vision goggle flight test pilot and the Niagara Air Show aircraft display coordinator. He’s a veteran of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom and is a recipient of the Air Medal and an Aerial Achievement Medal. He served as an Air Force Academy liaison officer from 2004 until 2009.
Franco’s overseas missions include Special Forces support in Operations Volant Oak in Central and South America in 1989; flying United Nations support in Somalia, Bosnia, Turkey and Egypt. In 2003, Franco evaded a shoulder-launched missile over Baghdad and flew in the Special Forces team that would rescue Jessica Lynch.
Franco has worked for American Airlines since 1999. He said his seniority gives him a flexible schedule that will allow him to meet any commitments or responsibilities and to dedicate a large amount of time serving on the Council.
Franco is a 1982 graduate of Lockport High School and received a congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. He studied there and at Syracuse University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering.
Franco was the speaker and guest of honor for Lockport’s Veterans Day parade in 1991, gave the commencement address at the 2004 Lockport High School graduation and was the keynote speaker for the Lockport High School Quality Student Awards program in 2006.
He and his wife — who, according to Franco, have known each other since they were students at Emmet Belknap — have two children, Amanda and Alex. They reside on Locust Street.
A first-time public office holder, Franco said he was open to running for election for a one-year term in November but only “if it makes sense.”
“It’s a golden opportunity to see if I fit,” Franco said.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.