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Brinson to fill vacant board seat Approved for Town of Tonawanda post

The Tonawanda Town Board will shrink in size, but not just yet.

Debate about whether to fill a vacancy on the board continued Monday night right up until the Democratic majority appointed Melissa Brinson.

The vote was 4-2 to appoint her to fill the remaining term of John J. Flynn, who resigned to become a town justice. The appointment runs through the end of this year.

The question of whether the board seat, which pays $19,467 annually, should be filled had loomed since Flynn's appointment to the bench Dec. 29. He heard cases for the first time Monday night.

In a November referendum, voters overwhelmingly approved downsizing the Town Board from six members to four; the supervisor is elected separately. Flynn's term was among three that expire at the end of 2007; only one board seat will be on the November ballot.

Under the referendum, the downsizing takes effect next Jan. 1.

Town Supervisor Ronald H. Moline and Councilman John J. Donnelly, both Republicans who voted against the appointment, reiterated points they had made at the board's afternoon work session, which Brinson also attended.

Donnelly discounted arguments by his Democratic colleagues, which included needing an odd number of board members to avoid voting deadlocks and the voters' call for downsizing to occur in 2008.

"These arguments are not very compelling, so the question is do we replace [Flynn]? I say no," Donnelly said.

Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. pointed out that it was Democratic lawmakers who advocated the downsizing and brought the question to voters.

"We campaigned on reducing the size of this Town Board," Bargnesi said. "The reason the people of this town got a chance to vote on it [was] because we brought it forward."

Once the air was cleared and the vote recorded, Brinson's father-in-law, Paul, administered the oath of office, while one of the councilwoman's three sons held up a family Bible. Her husband, Colin, tended to their infant daughter.

Taking her seat on the dais, the new councilwoman said: "I would just like to say what an honor this is. Thank you to all of those who came . . . tonight to support me. It means so much to me."

Brinson also is in her first term on the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board, of which she is president. She will serve in both capacities.

"Melissa is someone who's first committed to her family and secondly to her community," said Councilman Joseph H. Emminger, who introduced the motion for her appointment.

Emminger said he asked someone what qualities Brinson would bring to the Town Board.

"This person said, without hesitation, 'She's someone not afraid to ask questions,' " Emminger said. "That's a great quality . . . and one I hope we can all try to emulate."

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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