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Ability is focus for filling board seat

The search is on for someone to succeed Clarence Councilman Scott A. Bylewski, with town officials vowing to make the decision based on qualifications, not partisan politics.

Timothy B. Pazda and Ryan J. Mills both want the seat that came open when Bylewski was elected in November to succeed retiring Supervisor Kathleen E. Hallock.

But the two Democrats will likely need the votes of the two board members they tried to unseat in the Nov. 6 election -- Joseph N. Weiss and Bernard J. Kolber, both Republicans.

An awkward situation, but Pazda said he is counting on his election rivals to keep their word.

The decision on filling the open seat "should be based on the welfare of the town," said Pazda, whose race this November was his third try for the Town Board. "In small-town politics, there is no room for political bickering because it hurts all of us."

Mills said he regards his race in November as a plus, not a negative. "It shows my level of commitment to Clarence," he said.

Weiss, meanwhile, said politics would not play a role in how he will cast his vote. "I don't care if it's a registered Martian," Weiss said. "I'm looking for someone who has the ability to work with us."

Kolber added that, although there are a number of people who have applied for the Town Board seat, his first choice is Kathleen Hallock, the outgoing supervisor -- even though he is not sure she is interested.

"I'm hoping we can talk her into it," he said. "It would be a nice way for a smooth transition and maintain her involvement in civic affairs during the town's bicentennial year.

Those interested in the seat have until Dec. 6 to apply, and "a handful" applications have already been received, Bylewski said.

The board is expected to make its decision during its Jan. 1 meeting, when Bylewski takes office.

Bylewski said the board is looking for candidates who are in sync with the town's controlled-growth policies, are fiscally conservative and believe in open government.

Whoever is selected will serve a year. Next November, there will be an election to fill the remaining year in Bylewski's term.

In the world of Clarence politics, the fact that Mills and Pazda ran against Kolber and Weiss will not necessarily be held against them. Political affiliation on the board has tended to take a back seat in the years since the current slow-growth majority ousted the development-intensive, all-GOP board that had long dominated Town Hall.

The current board is still mostly GOP. Bylewski is the only Democrat. Yet he is considered a leader of the new controlled-growth majority and was endorsed in his race for supervisor by Hallock, a Republican.

Pazda said political affiliation should not matter in town politics.

"Party affiliation is just a way to get on the ballot," Pazda said. "That's how things work."

Weiss said he has high regard for both Pazda and Mills. Pazda is a member of the Planning Board, a position to which he was appointed by the current board, Weiss noted.

Mills is a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and also was appointed by the current board.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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