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VOTERS TO DECIDE ISSUE OF DOUBLING SUPERVISOR'S TERM TO 4 YEARS

Could two years be too little?

For some Lancaster officials, the answer is yes -- a two-year term for the town supervisor is simply not long enough to get things done.

That's why the Town Board has decided to put the term-length question to residents in a proposition vote on the issue Nov. 4. If approved, the proposal would change the town's two-year supervisory term to four years.

Currently, 12 of Erie County's 26 towns have supervisors with two-year terms, according to Patricia Urbanski, clerk at the county Board of Elections. Besides Lancaster, towns that have the two-year terms are Alden, Aurora, Clarence, Collins, Eden, Elma, Evans, Grand Island, Marilla, Newstead and Wales.

Although she hesitated to call it a trend toward the longer length, Ms. Urbanski said that "there have been more towns that have been changing over (to four years) recently."

In Lancaster, all elected officials except for the supervisor currently serve four-year terms, said Town Clerk Robert P. Thill.

The job of supervisor, combined with the accompanying but distinct post of budget officer, paid a total of $52,397 this year, Thill said.

If Lancaster joins the ranks of those towns with four-year terms, including the neighboring municipalities of Amherst and Cheektowaga, the new term length would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2000.

That would mean that the supervisor elected in this fall's election would serve a two-year term and then have to run again in 1999 before the four-year term would take effect. Current Supervisor Robert H. Giza, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Arthur J. Rago Jr. and Independence Party candidate Henry R. Gull.

Giza, supervisor since 1995, said that he started his latest round of door-to-door campaigning nearly two months ago and that he has been at it after work and on weekends ever since. He said the four-year term would give supervisors time to catch their breath between elections.

"You can't get anything done in two years. It saps your energy," he said. "If you had a four-year term, you'd have more time to start something and get it finished."

Frank DeCarlo, chair of the town's Republican Committee, agreed. "It wouldn't be a bad idea, simply because it takes a little while for a supervisor to get his feet wet," he said. "You bring a new person in, and he's only got a year before he's got to start running again."

Both Giza and DeCarlo said the rapid growth rate of the town means that the supervisor's role is now tougher than ever -- and takes longer to get used to.

Opponents of the four-year term idea, who argue that the more frequent elections let the public keep closer tabs on officials, are missing a key idea, Giza said: The longer term makes the job more attractive to truly qualified candidates.

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