Common Council Member Darius G. Pridgen of the Ellicott District is lining up support to become the next Council president, according to three city lawmakers he has approached.
If he has the votes, Pridgen would replace Richard A. Fontana, who has been president for the last two years, and could be in a strong position to become the next mayor when Byron W. Brown, who last month was re-elected to a third term, leaves office.
A Council reorganization meeting and vote will be held Jan. 2. Council presidents are elected by a majority of the lawmakers, serve two-year terms and appoint colleagues to committees.
“If he does decide to seek the Council presidency, I certainly would support him,” said Council Member David A. Rivera. “He seems to have a grasp of the issues that are out there. He’s a consensus builder and a good communicator. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Rivera said Pridgen is the only one of his colleagues who has asked for his support.
Fontana said that it remains to be seen whether he has the votes to retain the presidency but that he was not aware of any plans to change Council leadership.
Majority Leader Demone A. Smith of the Masten District cautioned that discussions about how the roles of Council members could change in the new year were in the early stages and that nothing has been decided.
Smith declined to say who he is supporting for president, noting that his role on the Council requires him to settle on a candidate who can win the support of the majority.
Pridgen is the pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church, and former member of the Buffalo Board of Education, an Air Force veteran and has worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He began serving on the Council in 2011 and is chairman of the Legislation Committee.
As a Council member, Pridgen has raised issues such as improvements along the 500 block of Main Street, live broadcasts of Council meetings, the presence of underage patrons at West Chippewa Street bars, landmarking St. Ann Church and Shrine, and city expenditures on upgrades to Coca-Cola Field.
“I’m really impressed by his leadership ability,” Rivera said, adding that as president, Pridgen would bring more unity to the Council.
Pridgen has strong ties to Brown, and has been a member of the Council’s majority, but Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk said he has shown an independence that is encouraging.
Franczyk and Pridgen met Wednesday, and Franczyk told Pridgen he would support him for Council president.
“I stressed the importance of a co-equal branch of government,” Franczyk said. “You have to know when to stand up for a balance of government.”
Franczyk and Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto were the only Council members not to endorse Brown’s bid for re-election, and they are not members of the majority.
Three Council members said Wednesday that they told Pridgen that he would have their votes for Council president.
The third lawmaker declined to comment until Pridgen speaks publicly about the matter.
Pridgen needs five votes from the nine-member Council to secure the position. The Council president makes just shy of $62,000, or $10,000 more than his peers, and serves on various boards in the city.
In addition to voting on a president Jan. 2, the Council will need a new president pro tempore, whose job is to preside over meetings when the president is absent. The person in that role now, University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell, is leaving her position in January to work in Family Court.