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Changes in store for Hamburg with 4 new Town Board members

January will bring in a new political landscape in Hamburg, with four newly elected Town Board members and a new highway superintendent.

And when Democrat Jim Shaw takes over as supervisor, he will be part of a two-member minority on the Town Board, since Republicans captured all three council seats.

There were so many seats open this year - the most in recent memory - because the board is increasing the number of members from three to five next year. Serving on the board will be newcomers Beth Farrell, Mike Petrie and Michael Mosey, all Republicans. The lone holdover is Democrat Tom Best Jr.

Also new to the highway garage just in time for the bulk of the winter weather will be Ted Casey, who beat incumbent Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr.

It could be a pivotal year for the town, with decisions expected on whether to extend the contract with New York State for the town to operate Woodlawn Beach State Park and establishing a sports facility with twin ice rinks and gym space.

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The majority on the Town Board also has the power over some appointments, including town attorney, deputy town attorney and prosecutor, bingo inspectors, appointments to the Zoning and Planning boards and some workers, salaries and stipends.

"I'm confident all newbies, old and young, experienced and inexperienced will be sincere in attempting to work together," Shaw said. "I have great faith people will want to do what's best for Hamburg."

Having the supervisor in the minority party has happened before in Hamburg. Outgoing Supervisor Steven Walters, who did not seek re-election, and former Supervisor Jack Quinn, who went on to serve in Congress, know what that's like.

"Whenever you have these many people changing over, it’s a real opportunity to start fresh, and bury the hatchet on old disagreements," Quinn said. "The public wants us to get along and get things done."

It is possible to achieve goals under a split board, he said.

"You've got to have communication and dialogue, or nothing gets done," Quinn said.

He recalled several big initiatives completed with bipartisan support when he was a minority supervisor: a highway bond issue and a property revaluation.

"We said we'd get this done and we wouldn’t play politics," he said.

Walters said it is difficult to be in the minority when board members don't want to work together. He also said when he joined the board as supervisor, the other four board members had a collective experience on the board of about 50 years.

"Now they've got a collective experience of two years," he said of Councilman Best, who will start his third year on the board in January. "They're going to have to rely on department heads probably more so than normal."

GOP town chairwoman Barbara Lipka said the upsized board will help with the learning curve and transition, because board members will be able to talk to one another outside of meetings.

"Now they can discuss. They're gong to learn from each other," she said. "I think that will help."

Highway Superintendent Best has reached out to Casey to offer a smooth transition. He said he hopes the transition does not affect the jobs of workers.

"One of the first things I want to do is meet with the workers of Highway and B and G (Buildings and Grounds department)," Casey said. "There's obviously a vast amount of experience, and that will not be lost on me."

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