Reshaping the image of Niagara Falls
is no easy feat, but Johnny Destino
is committed to making it happen.
The young Democrat wants to bring life back to the faded icon that attracts tourists from around the world.
is many things: a father, a lawyer, a former Republican, and a school board member.
Now he hopes to add a New York State Senator to the list.
A native of Western New York, Destino graduated from Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School in 1994.
From there, he continued his studies at the University at Buffalo, graduating in 1999 with a double degree in Communication and Political Science.
After school he
moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, for a job in Information Technology - but it wasn't long before he
way back to Niagara Falls
Destino was one of the first employees for the Seneca Gaming Corporation, worked there for five years helping grow the company and returned to UB where he earned his law degree in 2010.
Now an attorney in private practice, Destino is an active member of the Niagara Falls School Board and the Orleans-Niagara BOCES Board, which has familiarized him with managing employees, handling state and federal issues and keeping a budget.
"The school board is responsible for the $130 million annual budget; we make sure we are in compliance with state regulations and federal mandates, and we make sure 700 employees and six unions are happy," Destino
"On the BOCES
Board we have a $50 million budget to balance and we oversee 13 component districts."
But that's not all: Destino
also serves on the Community Missions of Niagara Frontier Board
, where they provide crisis services and community services for those in need.
This city is an international destination; there are billions of people in the world, they all know Niagara Falls and despite its current condition they're still coming here," Destino
"We need a new spirit of cooperation and positivity if we're going to correct the problems in Western New York."
also believes his
legal background will come in handy if elected to the Senate.
"Being a lawyer provides me with one of the biggest advantages that I have: it's a legislative position.
Who better to help write and craft new laws than an attorney who has to comply with them?
"I want to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment that has hurt our children and bring the benefits from low cost hydropower back to Western New York," Destino
commends Gabryszak's accusers for speaking out.
"They're very courageous in coming forward," he
I haven't been elevated above my abilities," Destino
"This gives me a perspective that people who have only have a public job wouldn't necessarily have."
One common knock on Destino
has been on both sides of the political fence.
Once a Republican, he
party to Democrat in 2012.
At the time, the Niagara Falls Reporter said his
own future and the future of his
hometown "best lay with finding allies among other people":
Destino twice ran for public office, once for mayor against Paul Dyster in 2011 and again in 2012 against State Sen.
did surprisingly well against Democrat Dyster, who narrowly edged him out by 724 votes in the general election.
"My values and positions haven't changed," Destino
"Democrats care about people.
They don't want to cut jobs without creating them."
grew up in Western New York and has seen his
family and friends leave to find jobs.
main motivation for his
campaign is his
family - he
wants to ensure they have a future in the place they call home.
"I want my children to have as many opportunities as I had growing up.
I'm fearful that we will lose that chance," Destino
"I don't want my kids to have to leave to find a job."
The first thing Destino would do if elected?
"I would move to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment immediately," Destino