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Board of Commissioners

Sister Denise A. RocheSister Denise A. Roche

Recommended by: Governor Andrew Cuomo
Date Appointed: June 17, 2016
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2021
Board Committees:

Sister Denise A. Roche is the first woman to the chair the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Board of Commissioners. Sister Denise recently retired from the presidency of D’Youville College, a post she held since 1979. She is credited with turning the college into a valuable, sustainable asset to the region.

A member of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, Sister Denise has maintained a devotion to the community throughout her career. She was instrumental in fostering cooperative programs with Buffalo Public Schools and developing a collage campus that added to, and strengthened, the schools West Side neighborhood.

Guiding the D’Youville campus through years of steady growth, which included the Montante Library Complex, the Niagara Street Annex and the Bauer Family Academic Center required a practical understanding of budgets, staffing issues, changing demographics and foresight. It is a skill set valued at the NFTA, which will help Sister Denise continue to serve the citizens of Western New York.

Sister Denise is a proud D’Youville alum. She completed her undergraduate work there, her master’s at Boston University and received her doctorate in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts.

Peter G. DemakosPeter G. Demakos
Vice Chairman

Recommended by: Governor
Date Appointed: June 13, 2000
Reappointed Dates: June 30, 2003
June 30, 2008
June 30, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2018
Board Committees: Chair of Property Risk Management Committee;
Member of Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Peter G. Demakos currently serves as Secretary of the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (NFTA) Board of Commissioners. He also acts as Chair of the Property & Risk Management Committee. The committee is responsible for non-public transportation properties that includes 1.3 +/- million square feet of industrial warehouse distribution and associated office space; 600 +/- acres of developed and undeveloped real estate.

He previously was Chair of Surface Transportation, where his duties included management of the light rail and metro bus. Mr. Demakos has dedicated his time to the NFTA since 2000.

In addition to his work at the NFTA, Mr. Demakos is General Manager of Niagara Blower Company (Buffalo, NY). Niagara provides engineered solutions to heat transfer applications at refinery, process, power, and food & beverage facilities worldwide. Before joining Niagara, Mr. Demakos was President of Triton Mechanical, a design-build Mechanical Contracting firm in Buffalo.

Mr. Demakos, a registered Professional Engineer, received a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lafayette College, an MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Buffalo native, Mr. Demakos demonstrates his commitment to the community. He currently serves on a variety of other boards such as Buffalo Renaissance Foundation, Amherst Police Foundation, Regional Traffic Alliance, and Kissing Bridge Corp.

Charles Gurney Charles L. Gurney

Confirmed by: Governor
Date Appointed: June 14, 2012
Reappointed Dates: June 17, 2013
Term Expires: June 30, 2017
Board Committees: Member of Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Property Risk Management, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Commissioner Gurney has been in the commercial real estate business on a fulltime basis for the past 25 years as a member of the real estate firm Gurney, Becker & Bourne, Inc., founded in 1864. As a partner in the firm and residing President since 2009, he specializes in the consulting, sale and leasing of office and residential site selection in the Western New York area.

Mr. Gurney is a member of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, a worldwide professional real estate organization that has stringent requirements regarding transactions completed and mandatory education. He also serves as a member of the Greater Buffalo Board of Real Estate, the City of Buffalo Preservation Board and is a past member of the Business Office Managers Association.

A very active member of the community, Mr. Gurney serves the long-time director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a director of Compass House and in the past served as a director of the Saturn Club of Buffalo. He was the 2002 recipient of the N.Y.S.C.A.R.'s largest transaction in Western New York and in the same year also won the largest lease deal awarded by NASCOR. As a consultant and broker he does work for the Episcopal Diocese, Hospice of Western New York and Nichols School and in 2003 served as a consultant to the largest real estate sale in Buffalo, NY.

Mr. Gurney is a graduate of the University of Denver, with degrees in Economics and Political Science. He resides in the City of Buffalo with his wife and two children.

Bonita R. Durand, Ph.D.Bonita R. Durand

Recommended by: Governor
Date Appointed: June 14, 2012
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2019
Board Committees: Chair of Surface Transportation Committee;
Member of Audit & Governance, Property Risk Management, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Bonita R. Durand, Ph.D., was appointed by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo June 14, 2012, to serve as a Commissioner on the Board of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Dr. Durand earned the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University at Buffalo in September 2002. Her area of concentration is Higher Education Administration with a focus on Institutional Advancement. Durand also holds a Master of Science degree in Applied Public Affairs from the University at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and Curriculum Development from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2010, she received certification in educational management and leadership from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.

Professionally, she is the Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary to the College Council at Buffalo State (State University of New York College at Buffalo). She has held both of these positions for the past 16 years. She is a member of the Graduate Faculty at Buffalo State where she teaches core courses on the History of American Higher Education and Strategic Planning and Finance in Higher Education in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Department.

She serves on numerous boards and committees for Buffalo State, the State University of New York, and in the Western New York community. Some of her service includes membership on the Middle States Accreditation Steering Committee, the Presidential Inauguration Support Committee, the Facilities Master Planning Committee, and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee all at Buffalo State. She also served as a member of the State University of New York Group of 200 Strategic Planning Committee.

She was secretary for the City of Buffalo Citizens' Advisory Commission on Reapportionment in 2011, a member of the Mayor of the City of Buffalo's 2010 Complete Count Census Committee, a charter member of the Buffalo Niagara Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and a member of the Western New York Women's Fund Board of Directors. She served both Mayor Byron Brown and County Executive Chris Collins during their transitions to office. In addition, she received the Bernice Poss Award in 2012, from the Western New York Women Leaders in Higher Education for her contributions as both an administrator and faculty member to the field of higher education.

She attends the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York where she is a member of Board of Christian Education. In this position she provides leadership for the church's annual Baccalaureate Sunday Service. She also served the church as a member of the board of directors of the First Shiloh Youth Foundation. She is also a life time member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an international public service organization. She has held numerous offices at the local and regional levels. Most of her activities in this role focus on training, advising and mentoring both alumnae and collegiate members of the organization throughout Upstate New York.

Commissioner Durand resides in Buffalo, New York with her husband, Dr. Henry J. Durand. The Drs. Durand have three surviving adult children and they enjoy spending much of their free time with their children and their spouses, their eight grandchildren and two great grandsons.

Her family and close friends will tell you she lives by the maxim that “to those to whom much is given, much is required.” She strives to live by these words daily.

LaVonne E. Ansari, Ph.D. LaVonne E. Ansari, Ph.D.

Recommended by: Erie County Executive
Date Appointed: June 20, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2016
Board Committees: Member of Property Risk Management, Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Commissioner Ansari is an experienced educator, healthcare administrator, with more than 25 years of combined experience. She has a diverse background working in areas of equal opportunity and affirmative action compliance, workforce development, higher education and community-based health care and hospital administration. Throughout her career, Dr. Ansari has been steadfast in her commitment to serve communities that have historically been underserved.

She has also served the community as associate director of the Education Opportunity Center at the University at Buffalo, associate director of the BRIDGE Program and director of Rehabilitation Occupation and Recreation Therapy for Psychiatry at Buffalo General Hospital. In addition, Dr. Ansari has several years experience working with community agencies conducting a variety of outreach and educational workshops, which include health and wellness, cross cultural communications, multicultural training, cardiovascular and health studies. She has been a relentless advocate fighting to improve children's education, especially within the City of Buffalo.

Currently, Dr. Ansari is the CEO and Executive Director of Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc., which strives to improve the health and quality of life serving both Erie and Niagara County residents. Prior to her recent appointment as CEO, she was Vice President of Operations and Director of Equity and Diversity at Niagara County Community College.

Dr. Ansari is a member of various local and national boards. She is well known for her advocacy work in the areas of health, education and human rights.

Dr. Ansari and her family are residents of the City of Buffalo.

Joan G. Aul Joan G. Aul

Recommended by: Governor Andrew Cuomo
Date Appointed: June 17, 2016
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2020
Board Committees:

Joan G. Aul currently serves on the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners. A Credit Accounting Manager at M & T Bank, Ms. Aul oversees a team of managers and analysts at the financial institution. Her expertise includes risk management, process improvement, quality control and leadership, with an emphasis on internal and external customer satisfaction.

Along with her work in the financial world, Ms. Aul has lent her talents to a number of community organizations, including the Niagara County Industrial Develop Agency and St. John the Baptist Church in Lockport. She has served on the Board of Directors for USA Niagara Development, YWCA of Niagara, Eastern Niagara United Way, the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and the Niagara County Task Force on the Status of Women.

A graduate of St. Bonaventure University and the State University of New York at Buffalo, Ms. Aul sees her work with the NFTA as another opportunity to enhance Western New York.

Anthony J. Baynes Anthony J. Baynes

Recommended by: Governor
Date Appointed: June 20, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2018
Board Committees: Member of Property Risk Management, Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Mr. Baynes is a 1979 graduate of Buffalo State College.

Professionally, he is the founder and owner of A.J. Baynes Freight Contractors, Ltd., which he formed in 1980. He also founded and operates AJB Truck Lines, Inc., Extra Mile Transportation, LLC, Evolution Development, LLC, Evolution Logistics, LLC and 100 South Elmwood, LLC.

Extra Mile Transportation headquartered in Buffalo, New York, with offices throughout the United States, was named to the "Inc. 500" list of America's Fastest-Growing Private Companies for three consecutive years.

An active member of his community, Mr. Baynes has been vigorous in supporting numerous organizations such as Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo; NYS Economic Development Council; NYS Small Business Advisory Board; Buffalo State College; World President's Organization; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; The Bison Fund and the Roswell Park Alliance Board.

Mr. Baynes has also served the region through his position on the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority as Chairman, Treasurer and Director

Mr. Baynes has been honored to receive the Buffalo State College Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award; Leadership Buffalo Values Award; Business First Fastest Growing Company Award; The Buffalo News Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award; March of Dimes Volunteer of the Year Award; Alfred University College of Business Award; Business First 40 Under 40 Award; Burt P. Flickinger, Jr. Children's Hospital Award and the Italian American of the Year Award in appreciation for his continued dedication to the community.

Commissioner Baynes and his family reside in Williamsville, NY.

Margo Dawn Downey Margo Dawn Downey

Recommended by: Governor
Date Appointed: June 20, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2017
Board Committees: Non-Voting Member of Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Property Risk Management, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

She joins the board as a result of legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, seeking a nonvoting member representing transit riders and the disabled community.

Although a native of Kansas, Commissioner Downey spent most of her childhood in the Fort Worth-Dallas, Texas area. She graduated Valedictorian from the Texas School for the Blind in Austin, Texas. Additional educational achievements include a range of classes including disability advocacy courses, as well as training in the travel and hospitality industry.

Life experiences have included work as a taxpayer service representative for the Internal Revenue Service; teaching computer skills; operating the switchboard and handling patient information for the VA Medical Center in Buffalo, NY; handling technical support calls for the Juno Internet Service provider; and teaching daily living skills to individuals with disabilities at an Independent Living Center.

She is an active participant in the National Federation of the Blind, the country's largest consumer advocacy organization of blind people with over 50,000 members. She also is a board member on two National Division Boards for this organization: The National Association of Guide Dog Users Division and the National Federation of the Blind Seniors in Charge Division.

Commissioner Downey is Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind's Travel and Tourism Division, as well as President of the New York Association of Guide Dog Users, which is an affiliate of the National Association of Guide Dog Users. She has served as a board member of the National Federation of the Blind's New York affiliate.

Transportation has always been an interest of hers. She commented, “I am proud to be involved with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. I have served for 16 years on the NFTA Advisory Committee for the Disabled. I enjoy assisting with monthly training sessions for new Metro operators, which has been an integral part of my involvement with NFTA.”

The Board of Trustees of Unity Church of Buffalo has been another integral part of Commissioner Downey's life for the past six years. She served as president of the board for four years and vice president for two years. Additionally, she was co-coordinator of the Unity Church Prayer Chaplains program for three years where she had responsibility for training and supervising members of the church community.

Other involvements have included testing the accessibility of new hybrid paratransit vehicles; participating in training classes at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, attending the rollout of Metro refurbished rail car, testing the accessibility of the NFTA's website, educating people with disabilities and the general public regarding NFTA policies and procedures, assisting in the drafting Metro's new Rider's Guide, attending and speaking at Metro sponsored public hearings and various other NFTA activities.

Commissioner Downey and her guide dog Arrow are proud residents of the City of Buffalo.

Dr. Wesley L. Hicks Jr. Dr. Wesley L. Hicks Jr.

Recommended by: Erie County Legislature
Date Appointed: June 17, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2016
Board Committees: Member of Property Risk Management, Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

In his professional life Wesley L. Hicks Jr., M.D. is:

  • Chairman, Department of Head & Neck/Section of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
  • Professor of Otolaryngology/ Head and Neck Surgery
  • Professor of Neurosurgery
  • Professor of Bioengineering
    School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
    University at Buffalo
  • Director, Head and Neck Surgical Fellowship Program
    Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Dr. Wesley L. Hicks, Jr. joined the staff of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 1991, as Attending Surgeon, Department of Head & Neck/Section of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. He earned his dental degree at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN, and his medical degree at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was a resident in Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, and completed a research fellowship studying the in vitro growth of respiratory epithelium at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He then completed fellowship training in Head & Neck Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA.

Dr. Hicks is licensed by New York State and is certified by the National Board of Dental Examiners, the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Otolaryngology. He is a Professor of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Neurosurgery at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Hicks' research interests focus on tissue engineering, wound healing, and mechanisms involved in wound repair. His laboratory is studying novel work in bioengineered devices for enhanced wound repair and the cellular microenvironment and tissue remodeling.

Dr. Hicks is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the National Medical Association, the National Dental Association, the Triologic Society, the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, the American Society of Cell Biology, the American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, the American College of Surgeons, the American Head & Neck Society, the Society of Black Academic Surgeons. He was a Senior Examiner for the American Board of Otolaryngology, and did serve on the Editorial Board for the Laryngoscope and Journal of Clinical Oncology. Currently, he is a member of the Board of Directors of HealthNow Inc. /BlueCross BlueShield of New York State, WBFO the national public radio station in Buffalo, NY, and the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers and was chosen as one of the top 100 physicians in the nation by Black Enterprise Magazine.

Dr. Hicks has authored or co-authored more than 195 journal publications, book chapters and abstracts, and has been issued a number of patents related to his interest in tissue engineering and wound healing.

Dr. Hicks is a resident of Angola NY.

Michael P. Hughes, MBAMichael P. Hughes, MBA

Recommended by: Governor
Date Appointed: December 15, 2008
Reappointed Dates: June 20, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2018
Board Committees: Member of Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Property Risk Management, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Mike is the Chief of Staff for Kaleida Health, Western New York’s largest employer and largest provider of health care services. Recruited to Kaleida Health in 2004, he is responsible for the hospital system’s external affairs including marketing, communications, and government affairs. He also oversees campus development, construction, real estate, planning and parking.

Active in the community, Hughes was appointed in 2008 to the board of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), becoming the youngest Commissioner in the history of the authority. Hughes also serves on the Board of Directors for Buffalo Place (chair of marketing committee), the Buffalo Police Athletic League, Mercy Flight and the West Seneca Zoning Board of Appeals.

Prior to joining Kaleida Health, Mike was recruited to and served as the Public Affairs and Marketing Manager for Rural/Metro Medical Services, a national ambulance company. He oversaw all media, government and community relations, marketing, and contract compliance in Western New York. He also served as the statewide public information officer for Rural/Metro’s nationally recognized “Disaster Response Team.”

In 2018, Hughes was recognized by the Public Relations Society of America, winning its highest award – the prestigious and nationally recognized “Silver Anvil” – for his integrated communications campaign around the relocation, rebranding and grand opening of the former Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo (now Oishei Children’s Hospital).

Hughes has been named a National Federation For Just Communities “Community Leader” (2017) and the “Outstanding Practitioner” from the Public Relations Society of America Western New York Chapter (2016). In 2010, the Communication Studies Department at Canisius College named him the “Marilyn G.S. Watt Alumni Award” winner, which is presented annually to a notable alumnus from the Communication program. In 2005, Hughes was named a Business First “40 Under 40” award winner.

He is also a graduate of Leadership Buffalo (2002) and the Buffalo FBI’s Citizen’s Academy (2003). In addition to this, he has won numerous awards from International MarCom, the Healthcare Marketing Report and the Western New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Hughes completed Harvard Business School’s executive program in Cambridge, Massachusetts concentrating on health care management. He earned a master’s of business administration degree (MBA) from Medaille College as well as bachelors in Communication from Canisius College.

Adam W. Perry

Recommended by: Governor
Date Appointed: January 29, 2008
Reappointed Dates: June 20, 2013
Current Term Expires: June 30, 2017
Board Committees: Chairman of Aviation and Human Resource Committees, Member of Surface Transportation, Property Risk Management, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Commissioner Perry is a partner in Hodgson Russ’s Business Litigation and Employment Litigation Practice Groups. His practice focuses on numerous areas in employment-related litigation such as employment discrimination, harassment, breach of contract, and civil rights claims. He also handles other business litigation matters such as real estate, government relations, education law, municipal law, and nonprofit law.

In 2009, Mayor Byron W. Brown appointed Mr. Perry to Chair of the Citizens Planning Council of the City of Buffalo. In this position, he helps to determine the capital expenditures for the City of Buffalo each year.

Mr. Perry is very active in the community. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the New York Council for the Humanities, the Buffalo Urban League, and the Buffalo Police Foundation. In addition, he also serves as general counsel to a number of organizations including the Community Action Organization of Erie County and Sheehan Memorial Hospital. Moreover, Mr. Perry is the President of Mayor Brown’s Fund to Advance Buffalo and is Chair of the City of Buffalo Commissioner of Human Resources Selection Committee.

In 2004, he was the recipient of the Erie Community College Outstanding Alumnus Award. In addition, Mr. Perry has received the Erie Community College Foundation’s Distinguished Alumni Award (1996), and he also was named Business First’s “40 under Forty” Award (2000).

Commissioner Perry is a graduate of Erie Community College (associate of applied science) and the University of Buffalo (bachelors of arts). He earned his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School.

Philip WilcoxPhilip G. Wilcox

Confirmed by: Governor
Date Appointed: June 14, 2012
Term Expires: June 30, 2014
Board Committees: Member of Property Risk Management, Audit & Governance, Surface Transportation, Aviation and Human Resource Committees

Commissioner Wilcox has worked for Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation for the past 23 years and acted as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 97 Business Representative for three years. In addition to serving as a Commissioner for the NFTA, Mr. Wilcox is WNY Chairman of Committee on Political Education.

An advocate for environmental conservation, Mr. Wilcox has spent two years as a spokesperson for the Clean Coal Project with NRG Energy and also serves as President and founder of the Niagara Greenspace Consortium (501c3), an organization focused on environmental/brownfield reuse in the Buffalo Niagara region, in accordance with the Niagara River Greenway Commission.

A United States Air Force veteran, Mr. Wilcox received an Air Force Commendation Medal for accomplishments stemming from his four-year service. He received his Associates degree in Applied Science and currently resides in North Tonawanda with his two daughters.

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