As Evans Supervisor Francis J. Pordum called the first meeting of the year to order Wednesday night, he quietly -- if reluctantly -- made history.
Pordum presided over the first meeting of an area Town Board downsized through a citizen referendum, initiated by civic activist Kevin P. Gaughan.
Though the meeting dealt with routine issues, such as making appointments to the Planning Board and choosing official banks of deposit, there were signs of change -- most notably, two empty seats on the dais with two empty brackets that used to hold the nameplates of Councilman Michael M. Spence and Councilwoman Karen C. Erickson. After the June referendum, their seats were eliminated when their terms expired at the end of 2009.
Now, instead of five members, the Evans Town Board has three: Pordum and Councilmen Keith E. Dash and Paul T. Cooper.
Gaughan and his supporters said they were thrilled that their months of petitioning and public debates over the size of government are beginning to bear fruit.
"This is a historic evening," Gaughan said. "People will look upon this downsized government board and know forever that in Western New York, the power of the people can change a town, can change a community, and change the world."
Pordum, who opposed the downsizing, addressed the changes by saying he respects the will of the people and will now rely more heavily on the town's department heads.
"We will survive and move forward, and keep on moving the Town of Evans forward," Pordum said.
After the annual reorganizational meeting, about two dozen Gaughan supporters attended the regular meeting of the Town Board.
Evans resident Edward J. Conboy Jr., co-chairman of the group Evans Taxpayers United that gathered signatures for the downsizing petition, thanked Town Board members for smoothly implementing the results of the downsizing referendum. While Conboy spoke, nearly everyone in the audience stood in a show of support.
Other downsizing supporters said Wednesday's meeting sent a message that they were fed up with unresponsive local government.
"This is the 21st century. Things need to be reformatted, including the size of government," said Cheryl St. George-Calleri, a teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools who volunteered in last spring's petition drive.
"We're not going to die if we have fewer government officials," she said. "We need to do what's necessary so this town and region thrive."