A former State Senator representing the city of Buffalo now has a new job helping put people to work. This week, Antoine Thompson started his new position as Executive Director of the Buffalo Employment Training Center. YNN's Kevin Jolly sat down and talked with Thompson about his new position and questions him about whether he got the job a result of political patronage.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Former State Senator Antoine Thompson used to walk the halls of the state capital in Albany, but today he's walking the hallways at the Buffalo Employment Training Center.
This week, Thompson took over as head of the agency that helps train and find people jobs.
“When I was in government, a lot of folks always asked me about helping them with jobs and when I looked at the specs for this job requirements for this job, they said you must have a bachelors degree and be a city resident. I said, wow I meet those," said Thompson.
After losing the 60th District seat two years ago to Republican Mark Grisanti, Thompson focused on his real estate business and his weekly newspaper, Black Western New York. Thompson says he was approached by Mayor Byron Brown about the position after the former longtime executive director retired.
"The mayor basically said, I need you to help take the BETC to the next level. I want people in Buffalo to know that place exists and believe that they have a good chance of getting trained and getting access to more job opportunities if they come to this place," said Thompson.
But some are questioning his qualifications and say the hire was the result of political patronage. Thompson disagrees. He says it was his resume not his connections that got him the job.
"I've sat on the board of the Erie County Workforce Development Board, I've sat on a lot of economic development boards, I run two small businesses, so who better to help fight for people to get jobs to motivate people to go back to work than someone that's from Buffalo that's born and raised," said Thompson.
Thompson will make nearly $80,000 a year in the position. Despite his critics, Thompson says he looks forward to the challenge of moving the BETC forward.
With the unemployment rate in Buffalo at eleven percent Thompson has his work cut out for him. His success could be determined by the number of people the BETC puts back to work.
"My job is to make a difference and to begin to turn those numbers around and with all the staff that's here, I believe that can happen," said Thompson.