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Smith joins board amid mixed mood

Kathy Hochul said goodbye to the Hamburg Town Board to rounds of applause Monday night. Richard Smith returned to the board amid catcalls.

Smith, the former assemblyman, Hamburg highway superintendent and board member, was named to replace Hochul at the end of the meeting, drawing a mixed response from the crowd.

Hochul resigned when she was recently appointed Erie County clerk. The resolution to replace her wasn't on the agenda and came as a late addition.

Supervisor Steve Walters objected, refusing to recognize the resolution and causing the three Democratic members of the board to force a "special order" to appoint Smith.

Walters, a Republican, claimed the appointment of Smith flew in the face of the board's refusal to let him name former police officer Tom Best, a Conservative, as his deputy. The board voted in January to abolish the position rather than allow that.

"Having this as a late resolution precludes people from attending this meeting who would have, had it been on the agenda," said Walters.

Councilwoman Joan Kesner said that there was no better candidate than Smith -- a Democrat -- for the position, based on his experience and that the board couldn't wait until its next meeting on May 14 to appoint him.

"We have a lot of work to do, beach cleanup, committees, we're planning for the budget. We're going to put him to work right away," Kesner said. "We did not want to wait any longer.

"It isn't politics," she said, drawing some guffaws from the standing-room-only crowd. "The thought was we couldn't get anybody better than Dick Smith to fill this position."

"I've always espoused that good government is good politics," said Councilman Tom Quatroche. "And Town Board seats are political by their nature, and just as any other government body that has the ability to appoint, they often -- if not always -- choose members of their own political party. I'm not going to deny that."

Smith's appointment passed, 3-1.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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