Patrina Freeman ran on a platform of making Irondequoit a leader in the tech economy and attracting businesses to the town by making sure employers could find skilled workers.
Voters listened, and many liked what they heard. So many, that Freeman was elected to Irondequoit Town Council on her first attempt.
“I’m proud and honored to be the first person of color to be elected to the town council,” she said Nov. 6, the day after the general election. “It shows how far we have come that it doesn’t matter so much what I look like but what my ideas and thoughts are and that they resonated with voters.”
Freeman, who ran on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence lines, received 8,197 votes, or 29.31%, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections. She was second to John Perticone, who received 8,423 votes, or 30.12%. Voters elected two council members.
“I’m really proud of all the volunteers that went out to knock on doors and make phone calls, and for residents who opened their doors and allowed me to come in and share with them my vision of how we can keep Irondequoit moving forward.”
Gary Pawlak and Michael Valente, both running on the Republican and Conservative lines, collected 20.70% and 19.84%, respectively.
Freeman, a native of Buffalo, has lived in Irondequoit for 15 years. She has three sons, and the youngest attends East Irondequoit schools, where, when she last checked about 50% of students were children of color.
“I fell in love with Irondequoit because it was very community oriented and family focused,” Freeman said. “It’s a place where folks know their neighbor and look out for each other. Coming from Buffalo, there’s a lot of diversity in a lot of the neighborhoods there, particularly the ones I lived and worked in. It made me growing up a well-rounded person. I wanted that same experience for my children. I wanted them to reciprocate that by sharing their points of view in the world, sharing their points of view of their culture to help other folks become well-rounded global citizens.”
Irondequoit Supervisor Dave Seeley said that until now, no one representing Irondequoit had been a person of color. “This is very significant.”
Seeley said people of color make up about 20% of the town’s population, which now is reflected by the town council. “When you’re growing more diverse, you want to make sure your representative body reflects that. … I think it sends a message that we embrace our diversity. It’s something that gives our town its character.”
Freeman said Irondequoit has a history of welcoming people. “It helps us to see maybe beyond our own personal fears, our own personal hesitancies to embrace folks that are different. … You find out while you may look different from me, we share the same aspirations, we share the same values. Everybody wants to be safe, everybody wants to be loved, everybody wants to feel like they belong. I think Irondequoit is a wonderful place to help those kinds of things, not just be planted but to flourish and grow. We’re starting to see a lot of it.”
Freeman, an ordained minister, is a member of the town’s advisory committee for recruitment to the police department. “We are looking for officers who not only share our passion for Irondequoit and a commitment to serve and protect, but find those qualities in people that reflect more of the diversity of those who live in Irondequoit.”
Police Chief Richard Tantalo said Freeman has been active in trying to promote diversity on the force. He said she helped organize a police candidate night that drew about 40 individuals, about eight of whom were people of color.
Freeman said Tantalo and Seeley are trying to cultivate an openness, sense of inclusion and opportunity for people to get to know each other. Last June, the police department in conjunction with the Rochester Police Department and Walmart hosted “Bridge the Ridge” at the Hudson Avenue store and about 550 people attended.
Freeman also is involved in Drug Free Irondequoit: Together. “She’s very active in our community,” Tantalo said.
“I am from a family of working class people who instilled in me some simple values,” Freeman said. “You love your family, you love your neighbor as yourself, and God did not give your gifts, talents and skills for you to sit on them. You’re supposed to use them in some capacity to help make life better for others. That has been the driving force of my life. That is whay I decided to run for town council. I saw an opportunity to use my skills, my talents to help make the lives of the residents of Irondequoit better.”