Fourteen aspirants are queued up to reach for Water Authority plum - The Buffalo News
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Fourteen aspirants are queued up to reach for Water Authority plum

Some familiar and not-so-familiar names are among the 14 people seeking to fill a vacancy on the Erie County Water Authority Board of Commissioners.

Daniel J. Ward, a former Amherst Town Board member, is among the cadre of candidates scheduled to appear today before a County Legislature committee during open interviews to replace Christopher J. O’Brien, who resigned from the Water Authority board Nov. 6.

Paul W. Wolf, a Getzville attorney who served as general counsel for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, also wants the position.

So do Joseph N. Weiss, a former Clarence Town Board member, and Patricia E. Wolfsohn, a marketing manager from Buffalo.

One of two Democrats on the three-member commission, O’Brien left with nearly 2½ years left on a three-year term. Democrats in the Legislature are scrambling to select his replacement before the new Republican majority takes over in January and could fill that vacancy, a plum patronage position paying $22,500 annually.

Those interested in the position were required to submit letters of interest by Friday to Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, D-Buffalo.

Ward served 18 years on the Amherst Town Board, including a term as supervisor. He also was the majority leader in the County Legislature for a year in the late 1970s, and he is the brother of Dennis E. Ward, Democratic commissioner for the county’s Board of Elections.

“There are always some political considerations,” Ward said, “but I’d like to think of myself as a skilled person who would bring some background and experience to the position. Being a lawyer certainly helps.”

Wolf, a Getzville attorney, was chief of staff for the Buffalo Common Council from 2004 to 2008 and an assistant county attorney for the Department of Social Services from 2000 to 2004.

Wolfsohn’s appearance today will be her second time before county lawmakers hoping to be considered for the Water Authority board. Back in April, she was among the hopefuls when the Legislature picked O’Brien as successor to Commissioner Jack O’Donnell. “I knew Chris O’Brien was going to get it,” Wolfsohn said, basing her perception on the tenor of the questions that lawmakers posed to O’Brien and the follow-ups. “But I kept thinking, ‘What have I got to lose?’ ”

As a long-standing practice, Water Authority commissioners are selected from the ranks of the politically well-connected in both major parties. Though she has worked on some local Democratic campaigns – most recently, Kevin P. Gaughan’s failed bid for county comptroller – Wolfsohn said she has no such political ties. “I’m not one of the monied political people, and it’s about time they get away from that,” she said. “I’m just an ‘average Joe’ who wants to do a good job and I know I can.”

Wolfsohn, though, is a resident of Buffalo, which is not served by the authority.

Also returning as a prospect is Weiss. In his letter to Grant, he summed up his pitch for the job in two short lines:

“I would again like to interview for the water commissioner position. You have my résumé on file from the last charade.”


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