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Majority caucus picks Burmaster to lead Legislature

The captain of the ship may be an old-timer, but younger crewmen are being promoted into top positions in the Niagara County Legislature.

The 14-member majority caucus, as expected, named Ransomville Republican Clyde L. Burmaster its choice for Legislature chairman Thursday during a 3 1/2 -hour session in Suzanne's Restaurant here.

The choice will be made official during Tuesday's reorganizational meeting of the Legislature.

The caucus chose Lockport Republican Richard E. Updegrove, 40, as majority leader after only three years in the Legislature.

Jason J. Murgia, 34, a Niagara Falls Democrat, was named first deputy majority leader and chairman of the Administration Committee, the panel that handles all personnel and financial matters.

Murgia is one of five Democrats who caucus with the GOP majority.

Burmaster, 65, in the Legislature 13 years, succeeds William L. Ross, a Wheatfield Conservative and chairman for the last three years. Ross, 73, was named vice chairman.

"It's only going to be a matter of years before we're not there anymore," Burmaster said. "The fit for [Murgia] to go in and learn Administration is a good one. It shows the nature of this majority caucus, crossing party lines for the benefit of Niagara County."

Burmaster said outgoing Majority Leader Malcolm A. Needler, a North Tonawanda Republican, will serve as vice chairman of Administration to help Murgia, and Needler also will sit next to Updegrove at Legislature meetings.

Updegrove will continue as chairman of the Legislature's Economic Development Committee. Gerald K. Farnham, a Lockport Republican, moves from the Administration chairmanship to head the Public Works Committee, which Burmaster had been leading.

Other committee chairmen will be unchanged: Town of Niagara Democrat Danny W. Sklarski at Community Services and Peter E. Smolinski, a North Tonawanda Republican, at Community Safety and Security. Smolinski will also serve as second deputy majority leader.

Ross will remain the county's representative on the Niagara Power Coalition and also will attend meetings of the Erie-Niagara Regional Partnership, of which Burmaster is co-chairman. Ross will keep his seats on the Niagara County Community College board of trustees and the county's Bicentennial Steering Committee.


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