Dunkirk Elect Its First Latino Mayor in New York State

By: Edwin Martinez

A homegrown son brings all voters together and makes history.

When I told my father that I wanted to become a lawyer he said, “then you better go to college”. Then he asked me to promise him several things and one of them was not to be ashamed that my last name was Rosas and never to forget where I come from.

That is how Willie Rosas describes what drove his desire to become Mayor of Dunkirk, New York. He becomes the first Latino/Hispanic mayor ever elected in the state of New York. He was one of 2 contenders for the job in a small city in upstate New York. Which has a growing Hispanic/Latino population and has already elected several Hispanics to the city counsel and the school board.

“For the first time, I’m offering the community a candidate that they know and that they know well,” Rosas says.

Rosas is not bragging when he says that. It is almost impossible for members of the Dunkirk electorate, not just Latinos, to not be somewhat familiar with his name.

“The Rosas family has been part of the great city since the 1950s, we consider ourselves as a part of the fabric of this community” Rosas said.

Rosas- of Puerto Rican descent was born and raised in Dunkirk, New York. He was a State Police Trooper for more than 20 years, and then became the Council Member at large in the city council. This year, he decided to run for mayor because he felt he needed to give back more to the community, which has given so much to him and his family. Likewise, Rosas credits his good friend and Democratic city party chairman Edward Ned Divine who asked him early on, to run for mayor and has been an enormous support.

In the last primary election held in September, Willie Rosas beat incumbent Mayor Anthony J. Dolce to win the Democratic, Independent and Working Families parties’ lines. On Tuesday, November 3, 2015 the voters sent a message again that they wanted change in city hall by electing Willie Rosas with over 75% percent of the vote.

Rosas celebrated his victory at the First Ward Falcons Club, where Dunkirk Democratic City Committee Chairman Ned Divine congratulated the candidate and thanked all those who helped before introducing Rosas.

Rosas began his comments by thanking all of the committee members for their efforts from start to finish, including the Democratic committee.

“When I received that endorsement the committee seemed to be divided and it was a tough race for the primary. Primary night, the dirty politics came into play. When that happened, I realized then that I needed to toughen up and I had two people who I was really relying on because it was really hard for me mentally to deal with this issue. I had to want this position of mayor bad enough, I had to really want it.” Rosas said.

Rosas then introduced his brothers, Hector and Robert, and had them come and stand by him.

Rosas continued and said “There was a point after the primary when I was feeling that maybe this was not the right choice, and these two guys helped me to get through that and helped me to understand that this was part of what was happening. There was change coming and there were folks in place who didn’t want to see that change, well, they have it now, the people have spoken. … I would like to say I am very proud of my committee for keeping it a very clean campaign. It would have been so easy for me to go ahead and play dirty, there were so many issues I could have brought up, but I thank God that I didn’t go there.”

The mayor-elect said he is starting on his transition team and a comprehensive plan has already begun.

“I have people helping me with that and I would like for folks to know that every position in city hall is going to be analyzed. We’re going to look at each of those positions and we’re going to see if these positions, the people in these positions, are doing what they need to be doing,” Rosas explained, adding to that, he will be replacing some of the people in the positions the mayor appoints with council approval. “I have already looked out to certain people that I believe are better qualified and more competent, and so I intend to go that direction with these positions. When the time is right, I will be announcing what positions those are.”

Rosas then thanked his wife Rosita, and sons Jonah and Jordan, who joined him on the stage.

Beginning January 1st 2016 Willie Rosas will be the first elected Hispanic/Latino mayor of Dunkirk, NY and New York State.  


Panorama Hispano is the regional news and information newspaper for Hispanic and other diverse communities.

US Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority in the United States numbering 54.2 million as of July 2014. Serving: Buffalo, Rochester, Fredonia, Niagara Falls, NY and Erie, PA. Outside our Market area: Visit our affiliate at: http://www.impremedia.com/

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