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Legislature panel backs Godfrey for vacant seat Appointment likely at Tuesday meeting

David E. Godfrey, a semiretired computer security consultant, was recommended Tuesday for an appointment to a vacant seat in the Niagara County Legislature.

A selection committee voted 2-1 for Godfrey over Christopher M. Srock, a maintenance worker at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park.

They and two other candidates -- Kathy L. O'Keefe, owner of a Lockport toy store, and David K. Moyer, owner of a Wilson hardware store -- each received half-hour interviews at the county's Center for Economic Development. All four candidates live in Wilson.

The selection committee was made up of Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield; Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls; and Legislator Gerald K. Farnham, R-Lockport.

"It was very, very close," Ross said, emphasizing that the vote was only a recommendation and the full Legislature must vote next Tuesday.

The appointee will be sworn in immediately to serve the 14th District, covering Wilson, Cambria and western Newfane, through the end of this year. A special election will be held for the seat in November.

The post became vacant earlier this month when Legislator Kyle R. Andrews, a Democrat, accepted Gov. David A. Paterson's appointment as county treasurer after David S. Broderick resigned.

Farnham said he backed Godfrey, 63, a Republican. "We needed someone with enough knowledge who would not have to learn the process but would go right to work," Farnham said.

"It's a challenge for all of us to get people to come here," Godfrey said during his interview. "We've got to turn our visitors into residents. . . . Every new house that goes up lowers my taxes. Do I want a population boom? No. You need to have a balance."

Godfrey was the only one of the four candidates who said he would consider taking county-paid health insurance. He also said he likes the Legislature's newly introduced split public comment period.

"He lost a couple of points with me on that," Virtuoso said.

Moyer, owner of Wilson Hardware, is a registered Conservative. Asked by the panel which side he would have caucused with, he replied, "I'm not going to go in the room with guys who want to create more government jobs."

Virtuoso said, "I scored Mr. Moyer very high: a friend of [the late Wilson Legislator] Curt Hopkins, a fiscal conservative."

Srock, 30, a Democrat who works in maintenance and customer service at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, said he wanted the Legislature seat because "it isn't usually the doctors or lawyers who help the most people. It's usually the politicians, creating new programs."

Legislator Phillip R. "Russ" Rizzo, I-North Tonawanda, was the only lawmaker to attend the interviews who wasn't on the selection committee. He said he would have voted for Srock. "I thought he was young. I thought he gave to the community," Rizzo said.

Virtuoso said he voted for Srock because he wanted Wilson to be represented by someone as close to Andrews as possible. "I'm looking not on what I want but what the people in Wilson [want]. They voted for a young Democrat," he said.

O'Keefe, owner of Noah's Ark toy store, is a member of the Independence Party but said she would have caucused with the Republican-led majority.

She told the panel, "I know you're a great team. I've seen you guys hold the line on taxes since 2005 and reduce the taxes this year while we have 8.8 percent unemployment."

She said the Legislature needs to do a better job "marketing" its accomplishments.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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