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Sharon West

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Sharon West has been a community and political activist for over thirty years. Growing up in the 1960's during the civil rights struggle impressed upon her how each of us must make a difference in improvement of the plight of African Americans and the underprivileged.

Her commitment to improve the conditions and create new opportunities for minorities has led to her working in various capacities in the city, county, and state governments along with volunteering for numerous community activities. Her career began at the City of Buffalo as a human resource planner in the Model Cities program and Department of Human Resources.

For five years she relocated to Washington, D.C. where she attended American University and worked for Deborah Marshall, a member of the Prince George's County Maryland Legislature. Upon return to Buffalo she worked as a legislative assistant to Assemblyman Arthur Eve in his Albany and Buffalo offices. Then utilizing the skills she developed as a city planner, she went to work for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for six years as their waterfront planner.

In January 1988, County Executive Dennis Gorski appointed her Deputy Commissioner of Planning in the Department of Environment and Planning. Her division was responsible for a wide variety of physical development projects and environmental issues that affect the County.

In 1995 Sharon was appointed Executive Director of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority which provides affordable housing for 8,000 individuals and families and has an annual budget in excess of $50 million dollars. In recent years, public housing in Buffalo has had a negative public image. However, over the last two years, Sharon has instituted many reforms and brought to the BMHA a more professional and efficient management style. Under Sharon's leadership, the Housing Authority has moved from being a standard performer to receiving HUD's highest rating as a high performer with a score of 93 on HUD's public housing report card. Significant improvement was achieved in reducing vacancies and the financial area by increasing the Authority's reserve levels. In 1997, BMHA received a $28 million federal HOPE VI grant that will leverage a total of $80 million dollar of investment to rebuild 620 new homes in the lower West Side.

Under Sharon's leadership three major public housing developments sites have been redeveloped and new housing units built including Langfield Homes, Frederick Douglas Towers, and Lakeview Homes.

She also is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Belie Center located on the lower West Side of Buffalo. The Belie Center is a multi-purpose intergenerational community center that provides job training, educational, employment, self-sufficiency, and recreational opportunities for residents living in the Lakeview Hope 6 target neighborhood.

Sharon also implemented one of the most aggressive Section 3 policies in public housing. Section 3 requires contractors to hire low-income neighborhood and public housing residents on construction projects. This has resulted in 40% of labor force being Section 3 employees. Over 300 community residents have been employed on BMHA construction project over the last three years.

Ms. West continues to serve on several other boards of community-based agencies, which provide health and human services. Sharon previously served as Board President of the Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Center for four years. Sharon was also one of the founding members of the 100 Black Women - Buffalo Chapter and member of the class of 1990 Leadership Buffalo. Sharon was also a past President of the WNY Jamaica Partnership. In 1992 she was selected by the National Association of the Partner of the Americas as a Fellow in International Development which is funded by the Kellogg Foundation. She was the only African American selected.

Currently, Sharon is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is active in the Elim Christian Fellowship. Sharon is currently Vice President on the Board of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and has been a member of that board since 1988. Under the appointment of two Governors, Sharon has served as a Trustee on the Board of Erie Community College for a total of 13 years, including a term as Chairman for two years. During Sharon's tenure on the Erie Community College Board of Trustees, she has been one of the college's strongest advocates for cultural diversity, affirmative action, and strengthening student support services. Through her leadership the College has established Women Centers at all three campuses, began a college-wide student mentoring and tutorial services program, and was a major force behind the construction of the City Campus Athletic Facility.

Sharon was appointed to serve on the Kalieda Health Systems Board, which was formed based on the consolidation and merger of the three major hospitals and their affiliates; and includes Children's, Buffalo General, and Millard Fillmore Hospitals.

As a true testament to Sharon, she was chosen by a panel of 20 community leaders for her outstanding community leadership and volunteerism to participate as a torch bearer as the Olympic Torch passed through Buffalo enroute to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Sharon proudly attests to the fact that she is a product of the Buffalo Public School System and obtained her BA at SUNY-Buffalo.

On a personal note, Sharon is the daughter of William E. and the late Geraldine Summers-West; she is the proud mother of two beautiful daughters Lisa and Shontai, and two grandchildren Gerald William and Adrianna. As a divorced parent for many years, Sharon was able to succeed through the support and guidance she received from her extended family and friends. One of Sharon's guiding philosophies in life has been that she is obligated to give back to the community that has given her so much.