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Esmonde Wisdom

Suit-clad and smiling, Donn Esmonde may appear to be your average Buffalonian. But if you’ve ever read his column in The Buffalo News, you can understand that maybe he isn’t so typical after all.
In 1982, Donn Esmonde moved to Buffalo, for the same reason that most young professionals move—for a job. Having worked as a sports writer in Poughkeepsie, New York, Esmonde was out for a better paying job at a bigger paper. “I was incredibly struck by the sense of community in this city,” he says, of his decision to accept the job.
Raised in Long Island, New York, Esmonde commonly refers to his view of living in his hometown as feeling like existing as just another ant on the largest anthill in the world.
“Coming to Buffalo just felt like ‘wow, this is a real place,'” Esmonde said. “In a city this size, not only do you get the benefits of a large city, but it’s also small enough and needy enough for one person to make a difference.”
After being a sports writer for 10 years, Esmonde realized that he wanted to write about “real” people and events. He was overcome by a sense that, in the grand scheme of things, writing about sports was not incredibly meaningful to him—no matter how much he enjoyed it. In Esmonde’s mind, a change became necessary, and so he did.
Turning to the community at large, Esmonde wrote the Buffalo News Lifestyles column for four years, before being offered the chance to become the new Metro columnist. It was a change that he embraced.
On his new metro beat, Esmonde believed that he finally had the opportunity to make the impact he’s always hoped for on a community he values so much.
With a casual flip of his hand he describes the goals of his column as, “The standard lines of reform and change—to be provocative and to provoke thought and discussion on a variety of issues.”
He adds, “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of telling a story that can only be told a certain way in a column. I want to do it with a voice that people will, over time, come to recognize and associate with me.”
For Esmonde, the influence he aims to garner is based on following the thread of those things he covers, creating a lasting interest within the public. “Every time out it’s a new day. Today’s paper is tomorrow’s trash,” he says, laughing.
Esmonde has an issue with local politics. As a firm people’s advocate, who calls for people in political office to be informed of the issues in their community, he believes that politicians should use the strength of their positions to enforce the power of—and belief in—change.
“Politicians are reluctant to step out of the foxhole, and to take on either corporate or government interests. Most elected officials don’t want to take on these kinds of things,” Esmonde says. With a disapproving shake of the head he adds, “It’s a disappointment.”
For Esmonde, elected officials are not the only people in Buffalo who have responsibility for dealing with issues. The business community also needs to become more progressive and be open to different ideas.
Esmonde feels that it is time for the citizens of Buffalo to get in on the change. He came to Buffalo because he believed that one person could be effective, one person could create change.
“For the City of Buffalo, it’s time to focus on what needs to matter in the community and what does matter to the people,” he says. “Don’t just talk a good game, figure out ways to get results.”
Although Esmonde may talk a good game every time he picks up his pen, he is not a virgin to getting results either. “The fight to rebuild history at the Erie Canal Harbor is my proudest achievement so far in Buffalo,” he says with a grin.
“Fighting to resurrect history at Erie Canal Harbor became, for years, like a part time job. This is our identity. But,” he explains, “it’s not easy, you have to rattle cages and take on the power structure. You are not going to be popular inside the political and power structures when you do it, but people will love you for it.
In a July interview with Buffalo Rising, Esmonde nicknamed Buffalo “The City of Untapped Potential.” He backed up the name with well thought out arguments about Buffalo’s latent waterfront, and the lack of commerce. Still, Esmonde insists the name could be changed with some pro-activity from Buffalonians.
“We are going down the right road,” says Esmonde. “I think we are starting to recognize that we have the resources here to make this a better place. In a lot of ways we are starting to catch on.
Sitting up suddenly in his chair, he adds, “A lot of the answers are within our grasp and a lot of the resources are here in our community. Let’s develop and utilize what we’ve got. That should be our first order of business.”
In the 26 years that Donn Esmonde has lived in Buffalo, he has become intertwined with the city’s image. He and the column he pens have both become staples in the Buffalo community. For a non-Buffalo born resident, he has become quite the Buffalonian.
Enjoying a closer view than most, he says, “Wow, what a great place Buffalo is.”

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