After three "grueling" years, County Legislator Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, will step down as minority leader, he announced Tuesday.
Ranzenhofer said the stress caused by the county's fiscal meltdown was partly responsible for his decision to resign the leadership post.
But he also said that leadership positions should be changed periodically and that he wants to concentrate on constituent issues and the proposed reforms in the county's four-year fiscal plan.
The job of minority leader tends to be heavy on "administrative and internal duties," Ranzenhofer said. "It's time for me to focus on other things."
The Legislature's three Republicans -- Ranzenhofer, Barry Weinstein and newcomer John Mills -- will caucus and come to a decision on a new minority leader before Jan. 5, the first meeting of the new year.
On the Democratic side, Lynn M. Marinelli is expected to be named chairwoman and Maria R. Whyte majority leader, a position now held by Marinelli.
Whoever replaces Ranzenhofer won't have an easy job. The November elections firmly shifted the balance of power on the Erie County Legislature to the Democrats, giving them a 12-vote bloc instead of the previous 8-7 split.
The job of minority leader also carries a $5,000 stipend. Ranzenhofer gave nearly all of it back by cutting his own salary 10 percent this year because of financial problems.
Ranzenhofer, 51, a lawyer, easily won re-election in November against John H. Schrock, a Democrat and business owner, to the District 4 seat.
With the retirements and defeats of many county legislators this year, Ranzenhofer will become the Legislature's senior member in 2006. He has served 16 years, including an earlier stint as minority leader from 1993 to 1995.