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3 REPUBLICANS, 2 DEMOCRATS IN THE TOWNS

The office of town supervisor is a position of substantial public trust, like that of mayor or other chief executive officer. Particularly in the larger towns, it demands skill, experience and vision. Here are News recommendations for supervisor races in Buffalo suburbs:

Clarence: Herberger

Clarence town government is an insider's game. An abundance of closed meetings demonstrates that from day to day, but nothing shows it more vividly than this year's race for supervisor.

Democrat Paul R. McCarthy, the incumbent, who was once a Republican, is attempting a job switch with fellow Democrat Daniel M. Gregorio, 65. While McCarthy runs for Gregorio's Town Council seat, Gregorio is running for supervisor.

On the Republican side is Daniel A. Herberger, 55, who has served on the Town Council for 14 years.

All are fixtures in town politics, but they are not all the same. For this $60,000-a-year supervisor position, Herberger gets the edge.

He and Gregorio both talk about keeping taxes down and controlling growth through planning that preserves the town's rural character.

But Herberger, a local businessman, also cites the need for the next supervisor to recommend leaner initial budgets, reversing the present custom and forcing the Council to make additions, not deletions. And he favors greater disclosure of personal finances by elected town officials.

Opening up government in this town of 21,700 should be a priority. Herberger is more likely than Gregorio, who is also the town Democratic chairman, to get the job done.

Grand Island: Pax

Grand Islanders are blessed this fall with two first-rate candidates for supervisor, incumbent James H. Pax, 50, a Republican, and Peter A. McMahon, 56, his Democratic challenger.

In the closest of calls, we recommend Pax for his fourth term as supervisor, a $58,000 annual position in this town of 18,600.

McMahon recently retired from an insurance and financial planning company. He has shown leadership in the volunteer fire department and with the Grand Island bridges. He is articulate and insightful.

But Pax has been doing much, if not all, of what McMahon calls for. Quiet and thoughtful, he has led a Town Board that raised taxes only slightly in the last two years and will hold the line in the next. His administration has found economies in refuse collection and insurance. And he has not been afraid to buck developers and business leaders when he felt their proposals tarnished the environment of Grand Island.

Also in the race is John C. Lexo on the Independence Party ticket. Lexo, pro-business, has been an often shrill critic of town government and the Planning Board.

He does not measure up to Pax.

Hamburg: Hoak

Patrick H. Hoak, 47, a Democrat, is completing his first full four-year term as supervisor and has earned another.

Hoak has continued excellent financial practices also observed under his predecessor, Jack Quinn. He and his Democratic colleagues on the board in this town of 54,000 have kept tax increases below upticks in the cost of living. They have developed a lively recreation program.

Hoak failed to win public support for a new town hall in 1995, but he works to solve overcrowding with creative use of existing space. Shortly, his administration will complete the long effort to establish a Highland Acres sewer district, which will curb pollution of Woodlawn Beach.

Opposing Hoak is Republican Louis J. Billittier, 68, a popular restaurateur. He brings good intentions to the race, but his grasp of the specifics of town government is too limited to make him a viable alternative to Hoak.

Lancaster: Giza

With 35,500 residents, Lancaster has become one of the fastest-growing of Buffalo suburbs -- and, not surprisingly, a victim as well of more than a few growth pains. Of the two workmanlike candidates competing for the two-year, $54,000 post of town supervisor, Robert H. Giza, 60, the Democratic incumbent, deserves voter support.

Giza, elected supervisor two years ago, got hit between the eyes early in his term with an unexpected load of debt inherited from the prior administration of Republican Lucian Greco. Giza tallies the debt at $720,000. To handle that jolt, he and the board had to boost taxes 18 percent in 1996, followed by a 2 percent increase this year. They cobbled together a few additional revenue sources, such as lease payments for telecommunication towers. None of this enhanced Giza's popularity, but it did test his talents for responsible fiscal management. He gets credit for facing up to the problems.

Republican Arthur J. Rago Jr., 54, is a businessman with a strong distaste for taxes. He argues logically that Lancaster has outgrown its infrastructure and backs a master plan. But Giza's record gives him the edge.

Orchard Park: Mill

Incumbent Dennis J. Mill, 65, won the Republican primary by 83 votes despite not having the party endorsement. He brings to Tuesday's election a command of public management that can continue to benefit residents in this town of 26,000.

Mill has compiled a respectable record. The general-fund tax rate is lower than it was in 1992. Outstanding debt has dropped 40 percent, and a tax stabilization fund is used to keep taxes on an even keel.

Democrat Toni Marinaccio Cudney, 53, who is active in her family's blueberry farm and speciality floral business, points to a need for more openness in town government and seeks greater town control of development. She has good ideas but can't match Mill's management skills.

Town Councilman David M. Buyer, 58, returns as a minor-party candidate after losing to Mill in the GOP primary. He, too, offers no reason to replace Mill.

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