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Freeman sees opportunity, optimism for Irondequoit

Patrina Freeman was elected to the Irondequoit Town Board on Nov. 5.
Patrina Freeman was elected to the Irondequoit Town Board on Nov. 5.

Patrina Freeman has a personal stake in one of her main priorities as a newly elected member of the Irondequoit Town Board.

"This is a little self-serving, I guess," she said with a laugh. "I don't want my sons to have to move from Irondequoit."

Freeman, a Democrat, plans to propose town partnerships with area colleges to develop programs and apprenticeships for jobs in fields such as photonics, cell battery development, and health care so businesses have an ample supply of skilled workers.

One of her three sons moved to San Antonio, Texas, last May for an advanced manufacturing job.

"I  have two more sons and one of them has just had my first grandson," she said. "I don't want them to have to leave in order to provide for their families."

Family is a term that Freeman uses frequently as she describes the path that led to her election as the first person of color to represent Irondequoit. 

The Buffalo native, her husband, Jeffrey, and their sons moved to the Rochester area in 2001, so she could pursue a master of divinity degree at Colgate Rochester Crozer Diversity School. After graduating in 2004, she is now an ordained minister.

Freeman is a big believer in diversity and inclusion as a way to improve the quality of life in a community, and she has optimistic plans for her town.

"Sometimes," she said, "it has happened in Irondequoit that we have a vision, but we get scared because it's too big and we think we can't do it, but if we come together and we work together, nothing is impossible."

In addition to her interest in creating opportunities for job growth, Freeman wants to partner with the county and the state to develop a registry of zombie properties that could be shared with investors so they could potentially renovate abandoned homes and put them back on the market.

With her emphasis on building strong connections between neighbors and investing in people, Freeman is counting the days until the opening of Irondequoit's new community center, which is tentatively scheduled for late 2020.

She credited programs at a community center in Buffalo with teaching her computer coding and public speaking when she was younger.

"I want that for our town," Freeman said, "and especially for young people in particular, to have the opportunity to experiment with different things and find within those things, themselves."

Freeman has developed her own interests and voice along the way by working to make her town more diverse. She helped Police Chief Richard Tantalo organize a meeting of prospective officer candidates, including several people of color.

She wondered why there wasn't any minority representation on the Town Board, and Supervisor Dave Seeley challenged her to run for office.

Freeman said she shed a tear on Nov. 5 when she made history with her election.  It was 147 years to the day since Susan B. Anthony was arrested in Rochester for voting in the 1872 presidential election.

"I was teary-eyed," she said, "because it's showing that we're progressing. It's not perfect. We are supposed to form a more perfect union. Each year and each generation that we do something courageous, it makes that union more perfect and it's just wonderful to see." 

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.