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DEMOCRAT'S INAUGURATION SIGNALS CHANGE ON TOWN BOARD

This New Year's Day means out with the old and in with the new -- with a vengeance -- in Grand Island town government.

As Peter A. McMahon, a Democrat, takes over as supervisor from veteran Island Republican James H. Pax, the formerly all-GOP Town Board will undergo a split in power for the first time in years.

McMahon's narrow 76-vote victory over Pax last November came as a surprise to many in the town. McMahon, 56 and a Grand Island native, never had held an elected office before, while Pax had served as a councilman for 20 years and supervisor for the past six years.

McMahon will be joined by newly elected Councilman Michael Heftka, a fellow Democrat, on the Town Board, which now will have three Republicans to two Democrats.

Other officials to be sworn in at today's inauguration ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Grand Island Fire Hall on Baseline Road include Mary Cooke, re-elected to a second four-year term on the Town Board; Eric Reimann, re-elected as Town Justice; and Norman Mrkall, re-elected as Highway Superintendent.

And though McMahon, in a preinaugural interview Wednesday, said he doesn't plan any sweeping purges of town positions -- "We're not going to throw everyone out and start over," -- there will be some new faces in Town Hall this month.

"There will likely be some changes," McMahon said. "We're certainly going to fill the vacancies, and there will probably be some other changes as well."

McMahon said he will meet with the Town Board on Saturday in an executive session to discuss changes to some appointed positions, including openings on the town's many advisory boards.

Positions have opened, through vacancies or expired terms, on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, the Recreation Advisory Board, the Traffic Safety Advisory Board, the Substance Abuse Advisory Board, the Conservation Commission and the Library Board, among others, McMahon said.

Some of those positions will be filled again by members whose terms have expired and who have asked to be reappointed, he said.

In addition, McMahon said, he will be designating a deputy supervisor, Michael Heftka, and other deputies including a deputy highway superintendent and deputy town clerk.

McMahon said he also will recommend to the Town Board that a new town attorney be appointed.

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