Dionne won’t seek reelection as Utica mayor but will seek council seat

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 20, 2020

 Utica Mayor Thom Dionne, seen here at the city’s Weekend Unwind concert in June, has announced that he will not be running for reelection for mayor, though he will still seek a seat on the City Council.

Utica Mayor Thom Dionne, seen here at the city’s Weekend Unwind concert in June, has announced that he will not be running for reelection for mayor, though he will still seek a seat on the City Council.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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UTICA — Utica Mayor Thom Dionne has announced that he will not be running for reelection as mayor in November. Dionne has been mayor for four years.

Dionne has decided not to run again for mayor due to an opportunity for advancement in his professional career as an officer with the Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Department.

Dionne said he will still be running for a seat on the Utica City Council, but he will need to focus more energy on his new position as a sergeant in Grosse Pointe Farms.

“An opportunity for advancement in my professional career has surfaced. It will require that I work dayshift hours in 2021. I considered running again, as I really enjoy being the mayor; however, I didn’t feel right about the time conflict. City Hall closes at 4:30 p.m. On most days, I couldn’t be in the office until about 3:15 p.m. The residents deserve better, and the job definitely demands more time,” said Dionne.

Dionne said he learned a lot while serving as mayor.

“I’ve learned so much about local and state politics. I’ve learned that people are very quick to let you know when they are not happy about something. There’s value in that. I have really learned to accept the negative feedback. It truly makes me better as a municipal leader. I hear the complaint, and then I go resolve it. Most times, the concern is taken care of in short order. Other times, there is not the desired outcome for the concerned party. The one thing that I learned the most was to listen. Even though I may not be able to fix the problem for a person, I listened to their complaint and empathized with them. Sometimes, people just want you to hear their voice and take action when possible. I found that most times, it’s possible. And when it wasn’t, I gave them a meaningful reason as to why it was not,” he said.

Some changes in Utica that he named to most represent his time as mayor were: moving the war memorial to Memorial Park, the traffic adjustments downtown, resurfacing Van Dyke Avenue and balancing the city budget.

He said that running a whole city is a tough job, and the next person for mayor will have some big duties.

“Just when you think things are going well, another issue pops up. There are no days off. The cellphone rings at all hours of the night. The complaints are daily. It takes a person with patience and the desire to serve to manage the daily workings of the city. I love the job. Sometimes, it’s tough. Other times, it’s business as usual, but it’s always rewarding. I feel good about the work I’ve done. Someone told me once before that I was my own biggest cheerleader. I’m OK with that. I have a good moral compass. If I feel good about the work I’ve done, I’m not afraid to share the success. The same goes for the failures. I pick myself up and go back to trying with a stronger resolve,” he said.

He said he really enjoyed being mayor of Utica.

“I really enjoyed being able to make meaningful changes. Not all changes were big, or over the top, but they all had a positive impact for the greater good of our community. I also enjoyed being able to represent the city at events and be able to provide a new and fresh approach to local government,” said Dionne.

Dionne said he will continue to be very involved in the goings-on in the city.

“I plan to continue to do many of the things that I did as mayor. I will still be very active and present in the community. Our council is a team and will continue to function as a team,” he said.

He said he does plan to run for mayor again when he gains seniority as part of the command staff in his public safety career.

Following his announcement, Dionne’s fellow councilman, Gus Calandrino, has announced that he will be running for mayor in November. As of press time, he was the only candidate declared for the position.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” said Calandrino.

Calandrino and his family moved to Utica in 2004. Both of his children attended Utica schools. His daughter was active in theater, and his son is on the Utica football team. His wife, Kelly, is active in the city and is currently on the board of the Utica Public Library.

Calandrino served in the U.S. Navy during the Persian Gulf War and was stationed on nuclear powered submarines. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and manages a team of software developers and testing specialists for a financial services company. He has been with the company for 25 years. He is also an active member of the American Legion Post 351.

Dionne and Calandrino have worked closely over the past several years.

“We talk almost every day, sometimes several times a day, about how to improve Utica. He encouraged me to consider running in his place,” Calandrino said.

Dionne said he supports Calandrino running for mayor.

“I actually asked Gus to consider running for mayor. He is the hardest-working person that I know. He is an absolute by-the-book kind of guy. He has taken council to task on the budget and shown the residents what responsible spending looks like. He is an excellent candidate for mayor,” Dionne said.

Calandrino said he has learned a lot from being on the City Council.

“During my time on City Council, I worked hard to resolve a serious problem with the water and sewer billing system. With the help of some great residents, we formed a committee which reviewed the entire water and sewer program. We instituted changes which will make water and sewer billing more fair and transparent in the future,” he said.

He said he has had a big focus on cleaning up blight.

Calandrino will have to surrender his City Council seat if elected mayor.

If elected mayor, Calandrino said that he plans to continue the work Dionne started.

“If the voters grant me the honor of serving as their mayor, I plan to continue the good work done by my friend, Mayor Thom Dionne. He has done a great job and is leaving the city in very good shape. We will continue working to improve our fiscal condition. COVID-19 has had a negative impact on our small businesses. I will find ways to help our existing businesses and ways to attract new businesses to our city,” he said.

Dionne also said he is thankful for being elected mayor of Utica twice.

“I have been very fortunate to have been elected mayor of my hometown. I hope that I have made a positive difference over the past four years. Being mayor of the city of Utica has been my greatest honor and my proudest accomplishment of my professional career,” said Dionne.

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