Kinney hands reins of city's DPW to son John Kinney

Michele DeLuca, Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
·3 min read

Apr. 17—On his last day on the job before retirement, Public Works Director Dave Kinney stood next to his replacement and handed over his cushy desk chair. His son, John Kinney, a longtime city employee, took the seat.

Friday was a big day for both father and son as one Kinney went out the door and another came in. Public works and parks will be under John Kinney's direction now.

The newly retired director has left the job several times before. This time it should be for good as he is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Sandra, and his family.

Dave Kinney first worked for the city in 1997 as deputy director of public works until his job was eliminated three years later, in 2000. For a time he worked as commissioner of Niagara County Parks before Mayor Paul Dyster asked him to come back to the city. He worked as director of public works for a few more years, then stepped away again. There was a big retirement party at the Como Restaurant with some 200 guests. Dave thought he was retired.

Then, incoming Mayor Robert Restaino asked him to come back one more time in 2019. And so he did.

Restaino said Friday that he requested Dave return to the job because the department didn't seem to have clear direction and needed a steady hand. "He's a professional. His management style isn't abrasive," Restaino said of Dave.

The mayor said that the smooth operation of the department of Public Works impacts everybody in the city, and Dave Kinney's been able to provide that. Restaino's expectations are that John Kinney can do the same.

The father and son were both on the job Friday, overseeing reconstruction of the landscape on John Daly Boulevard, a plan Dave's been trying to undertake for a couple of years which was held up by COVID-forced staff reductions.

Dave can now brush the dirt off his hands and know that his efforts to keep the city clean and beautiful will be carried on by his son, a long-time city employee who got his start in the public works department and who last worked in the city's court system.

Restaino said John Kinney was hired as the new public works director because he "came with real practical experience," and when John talks to a worker, "he's going to be speaking from a place of someone who has been there."

There will be plenty of work to keep John and his staff busy, especially throughout the summer when dumping and property neglect can become problematic.

The department will be hiring nine staffers to work with Frank Tantillo, the clean neighborhood inspector, to form three crews to travel throughout the city, fining those who dump and making sure properties are mowed and tended, with city workers doing the mowing and cleanup if owners don't respond to citations, charging the owners tax bills for the work.

It's a neverending job, keeping the city clean, Dave Kinney said, and sometimes frustrating because lots or alleys can be cleaned one week and need attention again the very next. City landscaping and parks need to be maintained and dying ash trees need removal. The father knows his son has a big challenge ahead.

John feels he's up to the task, but knows he can count on his dad for counsel.

"I know I have big shoes to fill. He was brought back to the job because of his knowledge of getting things to work properly," John said. "I'll look forward to doing the same, setting my own path, but I know I've got a confidant out there and if I reach out, he'll give me his unbiased opinion."

"When I stop by for family dinners," John Kinney added, smiling, "I know he's going to have a few choice words for me."