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Burmaster may soon lead Legislature

Clyde L. Burmaster is expected to take over as chairman of the Niagara County Legislature Jan. 2, with the chairman for the past three years, William L. Ross, becoming vice chairman.

County Republican Party Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek said he thinks Burmaster's style of leadership is more suited to "a very difficult election year" he sees coming up in 2007.

Wojtaszek worked out the switch Friday night after conversations with both men. The Legislature's 14-member majority caucus is scheduled to vote on it at 6 p.m. Thursday in Suzanne's Fine Dining, Wheatfield.

But Wojtaszek said he had telephoned all the majority legislators Friday and lined up enough votes to secure Burmaster's election by the caucus.

The switch will be made official during the Jan. 2 reorganizational meeting of the Legislature.

Ross, a Wheatfield Conservative, has been chairman for the past three years. Burmaster has been vice chairman and head of the Public Works Committee during that entire time.

Burmaster, who has been in the Legislature for 13 years, served as chairman in 2000 and 2001.

"I've made it known I haven't been happy with the progress that's been made in this county. I want to see things move quicker," Burmaster said.

Specifically, he said he would like to see faster action on settling contracts with the county's unions and solving the county's building issues.

Burmaster believes the county needs a new public works headquarters and a permanent solution to the expanding space demands of the court system.

Ross was a strong supporter of County Manager Gregory D. Lewis, who was just reappointed to a new four-year term. Burmaster has been a Lewis critic.

"That's entirely true," he said. "He's more of a plodder on those issues. I want things to move quicker. We have building issues that need to be addressed when we're sitting here in darn good financial shape."

Ross could not be reached to comment after Wojtaszek's disclosure, but earlier Friday he hinted that he faced opposition and that some thought his style of conducting meetings wasn't partisan enough.

"I can never be involved in trying to shut off a very vocal minority legislator," Ross said. "I can't operate that way."

Burmaster characterized Ross' style as more "easygoing."

"I'm not sure I operate well in that environment," he said. "I'd like a more businesslike style."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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