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Smith has support to fill seat of Hochul

New Erie County Clerk Kathleen Hochul submitted her resignation as a Hamburg Town Board member Tuesday.

That leaves the door open for the Democratic majority on the board to appoint her replacement -- and there seems to be one presence looming at the top of the list: Richard Smith, former councilman, highway superintendent and assemblyman.

"You would look to do what's in the best interest of the town, and I would think that would be putting somebody who has a wealth of experience they can bring to the table," said Hamburg Democratic Chairman Vincent J. Sorrentino.

"The person who seems to have that to me is Dick Smith. He's certainly somebody who should be considered, not like you're taking Johnny off the pickle boat just to get some notoriety. But the board makes the decision, not me."

Hochul's replacement will be decided by a vote of the Town Board.

Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli said there had been some discussion on who would replace Hochul if she was appointed clerk but no decision has been made.

"I know we've been looking at a number of possible candidates to replace her," Cavalcoli said. "As far as I know, there has not been a determination made, because we were not sure it was actually going to happen. Sometimes politics gets kind of crazy."

Hochul handed in her letter to the town clerk's office Tuesday, noting some of her accomplishments in Hamburg, including a 13-year freeze on Town Board salaries.

Smith, who opted not to run for re-election to the Assembly in 2004, said he is interested in Hochul's old position and that if he get it he will run for a full term this fall.

"It's true I'm interested. I've told them," said Smith, who turns 67 today. "Of course, it's a decision the Town Board has to make. Everything's been hanging so long [while the Hochul decision was made], but they seemed receptive to my candidacy.

Hamburg Supervisor Steven Walters has his own suggestion: Don't fill the position.

"I proposed to the Town Board that we look into reviewing the possibility of downsizing the Town Board," Walters said. "I think this is an excellent opportunity for the town to see hands-on what a reduction in the Town Board would mean.

"So I'm going to be asking the Town Board to leave the position vacant at least for the time being."

Walters, the lone Republican on the board, acknowledged the Democrats have the votes to make whatever decision they want.

"I would at the very least hope they would have an open process in which they would accept applications and interview people if they are going to make an appointment," Walters said, "but my preference would be to leave the seat vacant for the next three or four months or even until the election and see how that works."

Sorrentino, who is town attorney, dismissed the idea. "It would be not only a disservice, but even some malfeasance, because under town law you must have a majority vote to pass any resolutions," he said.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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