Hamburg Supervisor Steven J. Walters exercised his authority to name a deputy town supervisor Monday night, and the Town Board exercised its right to abolish the position.
Walters appointed Thomas Best Sr., a former town police captain and head of the Blasdell Police Department, as deputy supervisor. Best, a Conservative, recently retired after a 40-year career in law enforcement.
The move echoed one by the Orchard Park Republicans in 2002, when they abolished the deputy supervisor position rather than allow Supervisor Toni Cudney, the lone Democrat, to appoint a political ally.
D. Mark Cavalcoli had been deputy supervisor during Walters' first year in office, but the supervisor -- the lone Republican on the board -- declined to reappoint him.
Walters said he chose Best because "there were things I wanted to see done that the Town Board felt otherwise about. I wanted someone who shared my vision, shared my ideals, and Tom had a terrific resume. Like me, he's a fiscal conservative."
The four Democrats on the board were unanimous in abolishing the position, however, with Councilman Thomas J. Quatroche Jr. speaking for the majority.
"This has nothing to do with Mr. Best or his selection as deputy supervisor," said Quatroche. "In the future, if the supervisor would like to appoint a fellow board member, Republican or Democrat, I would reconsider reinstating the position."
Of course, at this point there are only Democrats.
When Walters cast his lone vote against abolition of the postion, he was joined by a chorus in the audience echoing his "no."
In fact, about a third of the audience walked out. Most were Hamburg police officers. "We can't talk to the press or we might get fired," said one as he stood in the stairway outside.
Tim Crawford, president of the Hamburg Police Benevolent Association, spoke for the police. "Tom Best would have brought in some experience," said Crawford. "We were here to support a former captain in our department who was very well respected and very well liked."
Best said that he had harbored no political ambitions but in the wake of the board's action he might reconsider.
"I'm not a politician, and my agenda was the same as it's been for 40 years here, to serve and protect," Best said. "That's what I wanted to do, but because I'm not a Democrat I can't do that. But it might not be over yet. There are a couple of seats coming up in November."
The board majority also removed Walters as liaison with the Police Department, at the request of Police Chief Joe Coggins.
"We don't want to blame anyone for miscommunications, but there needs to be some healing in the Police Department," said Quatroche. "We just felt [new liaison] Cavalcoli would be a good person to help do that."
"I questioned an administration that in the past hadn't been questioned," said Walters. "I don't think it was looked upon kindly."