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Webber-McLeod and Didio

Gwen Webber-McLeod, left, announced Friday her candidacy for the District 14 seat on the Cayuga County Legislature, challenging incumbent Michael Didio, right.

The incumbent in the Cayuga County Legislature's District 14 seat now faces a challenger, as the local Democratic Party announced Friday they've endorsed a candidate for the race.

The Cayuga County Democratic Committee has endorsed Gwen Webber-McLeod, a small business owner and nonprofit leader, to run against incumbent Legislator Michael Didio, who is seeking his third term representing the southern section of Auburn.

Webber-McLeod said she was encouraged to run in part by her participation in the Women Elect program, as well as the campaigns of several other woman candidates in the county and city this year.

Her parents were also both Jefferson County Legislators, a tradition she hopes to continue here.

Webber-McLeod has lived in Auburn with her husband for over 30 years. Currently, she serves as president and CEO of Gwen, Inc., a leadership and organizational development consulting firm, and also founded You Can't Fail, a nonprofit dedicated to creating the “next generation of women leaders of color.”

The experience she has gained in skills like budgeting and fiscal management will help as a Legislator, she said, but more important are her skills with collaborating, building coalitions, and leadership, partly developed serving on a number of boards and organizations such as the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce and the Booker T. Washington Community Center.

"I am always interested in effectiveness and efficiency and making sure organizations I work in are making the best use of their dollars on behalf of the people they serve," Webber-McLeod said.

Incumbent Didio, the majority leader of the Republican caucus in the county Legislature, said the biggest reason he's running for re-election is the same issue that prompted his first two campaigns — the health of Owasco Lake.

While protecting the lake from harmful algal blooms and other problems was his first motivation, Didio said after a short time it became apparent the variety and complexity of issues Legislators deal with.

"I've been involved in every program and committee from the opioid epidemic to mud on the sidewalk," Didio, a former parole officer and drug counselor said, citing his involvement with local drug court programs.

Didio, who has lived in Auburn all his 71 years, said one point of pride in his term on the Legislature has been his commitment to work not just for residents of District 14 but the county as a whole.

As part of that, Didio touted his participation in the Inter-county Association of Western New York, particularly the strength it lends to Cayuga County's voice through lobbying efforts in Albany, including pushing back against unfunded mandates.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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