LOCKPORT – On a 10-0 vote Friday night, the Republican majority in the Niagara County Legislature made its former leader the county manager for the next four years.
Richard E. Updegrove, a Town of Lockport Republican who was majority leader for eight years, will succeed Jeffrey M. Glatz, who is stepping down as of March 31. His starting salary will be $116,005 a year.
The Legislature’s four Democrats did not attend the unusual Friday night meeting. Also absent was Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville.
But almost all of the county’s appointed department heads, many of whom were ordered to reapply for their jobs if they wanted to stay, made sure to show up.
“It’s my understanding there are some retirements pending,” said Updegrove, but he didn’t name names. There are outsiders who also have applied for the positions, but Updegrove said he hasn’t seen any resumes yet.
Asked why he wanted the manager job, Updegrove said, “At this point in my career, I would welcome a unique, challenging opportunity and the opportunity to work with legislators I have a good relationship with.”
He said when he announced last July that he wasn’t running for re-election that he needed to devote more time to his law practice. He was a partner at Spadafora & Verrastro, a Buffalo law firm.
Updegrove was chosen on a party-line vote by a search committee that also interviewed two former county administrators, Kim Park of Wayne County and Martin D. Murphy of Cortland County.
“Any of those candidates would have done a great job, but one was greater than the other two,” said Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane.
Syracuse cited Updegrove’s legislative record in pushing for such cost-saving moves as the closure and sale of Mount View Health Facility, the shutdown of the construction and demolition landfill, the sale of the county’s home health care program and the purchase of office buildings in downtown Lockport, which the county had been leasing.
Legislature Chairman W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, praised what he called Updegrove’s “unending quest for lower taxes and better government.”
Updegrove told his former colleagues, “This Legislature has made some very difficult decisions over the last several years to return fiscal stability to our county and our budget, and we will be facing some challenges in the near future.”
He cited the low tax cap and the possible decrease in sales tax revenue because of the falling Canadian dollar. “We have infrastructure needs that must be addressed,” he said.
Among them, he said, is the need to make a decision on the long-dormant proposal to construct a new public works headquarters.
In other action Friday, the Legislature appointed James E. Carroll to serve as District 1 coroner for the rest of the year. He will start Monday with a salary of $17,500 a year.
Carroll, 71, a Porter Republican, is a former U.S. Border Patrol officer and Town of Lewiston police officer. District 1 covers only the City of Niagara Falls, but coroners don’t have to live in the district in which they serve. Carroll succeeds Cindy-Lou Joyce, who retired as of Jan. 31. Joyce, a Democrat from Wheatfield, had held the post since 2008.
Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson, said there were eight applicants and three or four of them were interviewed.
“I felt like serving the community. It gives me a chance to contact with law enforcement again,” said Carroll, who retired from the Border Patrol in 2001 after 28 years of service.
An election will be held to fill the seat in November, unless the Legislature decides to abolish the four coroner positions and switch to a medical examiner system, as is used in Erie County. The Legislature voted last month to create a committee to study that question.