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From yesteryear, lawmakers reconvene to take a bow Bicentennial salute given to 21 alumni of County Legislature

Some of them admit they don't pay that much attention to county government anymore, while others came armed with advice on current issues.

But the Niagara County Legislature got a charge out of saluting its alumni association Tuesday.

As part of the county's bicentennial observance, the Legislature invited all former members to return to the County Courthouse, and 21 of them did so.

"When I got the invitation, I said, 'My God, I'm a relic of the past,' " said Doris Hampton of Niagara Falls, who in 1970 became the first woman to serve on the old Board of Supervisors.

Norm Jeffords of Niagara Falls was the earliest member to attend; he started in 1962 and served through 1973.

"I was the first chairman of the Charter Commission," Jeffords recalled. "I went to the clerk, and he told me, 'That committee no longer exists.' Bill Feder [of Niagara Falls] and I didn't go to the Republican caucus for six months. Obviously, they didn't need us."

Jeffords said that when he started, the Board of Supervisors had 42 members. He said he was the one who suggested that the size be cut to 31.

"We didn't want any more 21-21 ties," he said.

The partisanship that remains in evidence today is thus nothing new, but Ronald Perry, a Newfane Republican who served from 1979 to 1993, said, "It seems to me that it's more partisan than when I served."

"Quit fighting. Get out there and do something," Anthony Quaranto, who served here from 1976 to 1985 before joining the Niagara Falls City Council, urged the current Legislature.

"I wouldn't want to be on [the Legislature] anymore, the games these guys are playing," said James Sacco, who represented the Town of Niagara from 1970 to 1987.

"You are role models for our young legislators," Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, told the alumni. "You all played an important role in Niagara County."

Lee Simonson, who represented Lewiston for 32 years, saluted Philo J. Brooks, the Porter Republican who also returned Tuesday, and Molly Plant, who retired Aug. 31 after 38 years as assistant Legislature clerk.

"Philo treated taxpayer money as tight as bark on a tree; he was the epitome of frugality," Simonson said. "Molly was the pinnacle of efficiency."

Brooks, 80, who served from 1966 to 1993, said he didn't have many withdrawal pains after retiring. "Six months or so, it's gone," said Brooks, who has a county office building named for him.

Ross said Perry also epitomized the old-school frugal legislator.

"The toughest finance chairman known to man," Ross told his colleagues. "You're lucky Ron is not finance chairman at the present time."

"Spend county money like it's your own," Perry advised the Legislature.

Malcolm A. Needler, who ended a 20-year career from North Tonawanda last year, said his withdrawal was "very slight." Asked if he watches Legislature meetings on cable TV, Needler said, "I didn't watch it when I was in. Why would I watch it now?"

Arthur Kroening, who represented Wheatfield from 1990 to 1999 before becoming town highway superintendent, recalled having Simonson ghostwrite his district newsletter.

"It took me more time to drive over there than it took him to do it," Kroening said.

Lockport artist Joe Buczkowski joined Plant in unveiling the county bicentennial mural in the public entrance to the building. Buczkowski was paid $4,000 for the effort.

"If we ever move," Ross vowed, "it will move with us."


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