Niagara County Legislature: Wojtaszek to helm public works; Nemi heads administrationby jmaloni
McNall takes over community services, Godfrey at community safety
by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, nominated a slate of lawmakers to head legislative committees in 2013, announcing their names at the Niagara County Courthouse late Wednesday.
Veteran lawmakers Paul B. Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, and Tony Nemi, R-Lockport/Pendleton, will head up the public works and administration committees, respectively. Switching chairmanships with Nemi is Legislator Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, who moves from administration to community services. Second-term Legislator Dave Godfrey, R-Wilson, will take over community safety and security, a posting being vacated by Wojtaszek.
The four nominations, submitted to Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, fill out the remaining chairmanships of the County Legislature's five standing committees. Wednesday's slate of nominees follow Monday's naming of Legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, to head the economic development committee, which Updegrove held in his portfolio before new legislative rules enacted this year forbade the Legislature's majority leader, chairman and vice chairman from chairing committees.
"This is a quality slate of leaders, committed to the conservative values that have been the hallmark of this Majority Caucus during its time guiding the Legislature," Updegrove said of his nominees. "Every one of these committee chairs is committed to maximizing government efficiency, minimizing government costs, and eliminating government waste."
"These are four more outstanding picks by the Majority Leader," Ross said after reviewing Updegrove's appointments. "Paul Wojtaszek is a proven leader, and I believe his broad experience as a business owner, a lawyer, a fraud investigator in the attorney general's office, and a former Catholic school board member uniquely suits him to the task ahead of him, which is controlling costs."
"Tony Nemi is a hard worker who isn't afraid to ask questions, or to hold our department heads accountable. Dave Godfrey has been a champion of government cost containment, but has also been a strong supporter of our first responders," Ross said. "Lastly, Keith McNall has always devoted considerable attention to making sure government delivers necessary services to our most vulnerable citizens while protecting the taxpayers. Again, these are outstanding choices."
Ross went on to praise Wojtaszek's performance at community safety, where he reviewed a number of long-term contracts with outside vendors and worked to lower the costs associated with a federally mandated radio narrowbanding project.
Wojtaszek, who was informed Wednesday morning of his selection, thanked Updegrove and Ross for their confidence.
"I look forward to the challenges this new chairmanship will bring, and I thank Majority Leader Updegrove for his commitment to our shared principles of lowering government costs through practicality," Wojtaszek said. "I do want to thank my predecessor, Legislator Clyde Burmaster (R-Ransomville) for leaving me in good position as I take on this chairmanship. Clyde has always been committed to hands-on leadership of public works, and I know he has always strived to contain costs. He has left me with a strong foundation."
Nemi expressed confidence about his new role heading the committee that serves as the Legislature's final reviewing body for most legislation, particularly legislation that spends money.
"I want to be a facilitator for good government," Nemi said. "We have a county budget running in excess of 300 million taxpayer dollars. We owe it to the people who earned those tax dollars to put in place checks and balances to eliminate waste, and to instill a commitment on the part of department heads to reduce costs at every opportunity, all year long."
McNall, a former school board president known for a frugal outlook on government, said he would perform a delicate balancing act at community services.
"There is a place for government and government services, and we acknowledge as much," McNall said. "However, we must be vigilant that when government provides services, it does so in a manner that protects our taxpayers and honors their sacrifice. I will challenge our service agencies to contain costs and to control spending."
Godfrey, a volunteer firefighter and veteran, said he plans to work closely with emergency service personnel, and to forge relationships beyond the county's borders to cut costs.
"Public safety is one area where you cannot really set a price," Godfrey said. "It is my goal to find ways, though, to keep that price tag in line with our taxpayers' expectations while ensuring we have key needs met: adequate sheriff's road patrols, modern equipment and expert training for our first responders, and compliance with federal mandates. We will strive to accomplish that goal by working closely with our sheriff, with our county emergency services coordinator, with our fire companies, and with neighboring communities that want to share costs."
The full membership of the committees is as follows:
Public Works: Wojtaszek, chairman; John Syracuse, R-Newfane, vice chairman; Michael A. Hill, R-Middleport; Updegrove; Owen Steed, D-Niagara Falls.
Administration: Nemi, chairman; Updegrove, vice chairman; Godfrey; Wojtaszek; Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls.
Community Services: McNall, chairman; Chereé J. Copelin, R-LaSalle, vice chairman; Burmaster; Pete Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda; Steed.
Community Safety and Security: Godfrey, chairman; Burmaster, vice chairman; Nemi; Smolinski; Jason Zona, D-Niagara Falls.