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WILLIAM B. HOYT was the thinking person's politician -- able to approach public issues in a far-sighted and intellectual way, able to passionately hold his ground under challenge, able to work within the system to reach significant goals.

From the beginning, Bill Hoyt was a different sort of politician. As a Buffalo Common Council member, he bucked the odds and got a city ordinance on the books in 1974 that phased out the sale of leaded gasoline in the city. It was a pioneering environmental law emanating from a city government not known for pioneering. He organized a fledgling recycling program long before it became a popular environmental cause.

Beginning in 1975, he represented part of Buffalo in the State Assembly. He was in the front lines on environmental concerns. He was a friend of Great Lakes protection. He was a major force in preventing a power project at beautiful Letchworth State Park.

He helped preserve low-cost hydropower for Western New York. He was a valuable legislative supporter for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and other cultural organizations. He worked on behalf of the Buffalo public schools and the State University of New York's units in Buffalo.

As chairman of the Assembly's Energy Committee, he championed conservation and co-generation of electric power. Social service agencies relied on him to be their man in Albany. His efforts breathed life into the Child Care Coalition of the Niagara Frontier. He made the prevention of child abuse a special concern.

Bill Hoyt had another passion -- as distant from Albany politics as one can get. His love of the Canadian arctic resulted in long canoe expeditions to uninhabited wilds. "After six months in Albany, with its caterwauling and jabbering, a stint in the North is like breathing pure oxygen," he once wrote in The Buffalo News. Native Crees fighting Quebec's James Bay power project had no better friend south of the border than Bill Hoyt.

The other day -- while engaged in a vigorous discussion of energy policy in the Assembly chambers -- Bill Hoyt suffered a heart attack and died. His life was only 54 years long. But he made it count for much, and the Buffalo area is better because he did.

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