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GIVE TOWN SUPERVISORS FOUR-YEAR TERMS

A number of towns around Western New York are electing supervisors this year. That's true in every November in an odd-numbered year.

But some voters find themselves facing the top town job on the ballot more often than others. Some towns elect supervisors every two years, some every four. That's true even though other town board members, whose jobs carry fewer responsibilities, typically have four-year terms.

Why the difference? It can be argued that a two-year term is more democratic, since voters get to give their verdict on the office holder's performance more often. But the down side is that supervisors find themselves having to think about elections again when they've barely had time to get into the job.

And historically, some towns introduced the practice for the worst of reasons -- a belief by party insiders that having the supervisor up every two years would help the top official lure votes for the other board candidates on the same ticket.

In the Greater Buffalo area, the recent trend among towns, especially larger ones, is for the longer supervisor terms. Amherst, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda have four-year terms. That's sensible. Elections every two years divert time and energy from solving government problems to thinking about politics. They can tie candidates more closely to special financial interests that help bankroll some campaigns.

On Nov. 4, voters in the Town of Lancaster will decide whether to double the length of the term for their elected supervisor from two to four years. They'll face a ballot proposition to make the change.

They should vote yes. Not only is the supervisor the most important position in town government now, but it is becoming more so. With 35,500 residents, Lancaster is a growing suburb. Longer terms for its chief executive officer would likely attract highly qualified candidates, coupled with the $54,000 annual salary. That's a big asset in a leadership position that will demand more and more experience and expertise in solving complicated problems in the future.

Citizens of other towns with two-year terms should be confronting this issue as well. Even in a township with low population, there is little reason to run an election so often for supervisor -- and plenty of reason not to.

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