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AMHERST SUPERVISOR MARCHES TO DRUMMER ONLY A FEW HEAR

Susan Grelick is an unusual politician, whom some describe as intelligent and hard working, but a "bit out there," and others call cunning -- dumb as a fox, so to speak.

It's hard to say which -- if either of the characterizations -- describes the woman heading the largest suburban community in Erie County.

Clearly, though, Ms. Grelick is marching to her own drum.

That was obvious last week, during the Bill and Hillary and Al and Tipper feel-good bash in Marine Midland Arena.

While every big-name local Democrat you could think of got floor-level seats to the shindig, the Amherst supervisor was sitting a few flights up, in a section where you needed binoculars to get a good look at the main attractions below.

Ms. Grelick says she liked the seats. They provided a great view.

"I wanted to sit where you don't have a problem seeing," Ms. Grelick says. "It was like a rock concert. You know how when you're on the floor, there's people standing up, and you're jumping over heads."

Still, Jumbotron or not, the view from above was hardly the seating of choice for area politicians.

And while Ms. Grelick would surely have gotten a few floor seats for the asking, she didn't make the call. And neither the local nor county Democratic bigwigs contacted her.

Amherst town government may be run by Democrats for the first time in history, but there's hardly a Democratic lovefest going on in the town.

Ms. Grelick is, after all, the Amherst supervisor who came into politics eight years ago by answering an ad local Democrats took out looking for someone to run for town clerk.

Over the years, she's remained popular with voters, who seem enamored with her ability to work hard, understand issues, and separate politics from policy.

But Ms. Grelick's style has won her few friends on the Town Board, where Democrats as well as Republicans complain the supervisor seems unwilling to build consensus, and isn't always true to her word.

And Ms. Grelick seems even less popular with the local and county Democratic party leadership, who describe the supervisor as a "free agent" who votes with the Republicans more often than these Democrats would like.

Ms. Grelick bristles at the criticisms, ticking off a list of accomplishments she says prove she's a consensus builder.

"For someone as open and accessible as I am, it's hard to believe someone could say there's a lack of trust," she adds.

She also disagrees with those describing her as "out there," or "cunning," saying she views herself as "credentialed and qualified, and willing to change the system."

As for politics, Ms. Grelick says she's a good Democrat, but that she must put the good of the town before partisan politics.

And so, while most top Democrats watched President Clinton from the ground floor, Ms. Grelick sat a few flights up with some friends -- including a former Republican Town Board member, and a Democratic consultant currently on the outs with the Democratic county chairman.

It was only when the rally ended, Ms. Grelick says, that she learned a seat was reserved for her on the floor of the Arena -- apparently made available for top elected officials in the area's largest cities and towns by the White House.

Not that it would have mattered, Ms. Grelick says.

"I had a bunch of friends with me. It would have been hard," she says. "Besides, I had fun."

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