by Susan Mikula Campbell
In the wake of Supervisor Steve Richard's resignation this month, the Town of Niagara Town Board on May 14 sidestepped politics and put someone with longtime experience in charge of town business until the end of the year.
Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso was unanimously chosen to be deputy supervisor. Virtuoso, who is in her 15th year as town clerk, will lead board meetings, sign checks and perform other duties where a legal representative of the town is needed in absence of a supervisor. However, unlike councilmen who have held the deputy supervisor position in the past, she will not have a vote on board decisions.
Virtuoso will continue her role as town clerk, with the assistance of her deputy town clerk Melissa Cerrillo.
"The town is comprised of exceptional department heads and workforce as well as dedicated elected leaders, and together we will continue to make this town a great place to live, work and do business," Virtuoso said. "The past is done and we're only going forward."
She urged residents to call or stop by Town Hall with questions or suggestions. "I truly believe in open and transparent government."
Richards resigned as part of a plea deal with the state attorney general in a case alleging he had used town supplies and workers for his personal gain. The deputy supervisor chosen by Richards, Councilman Danny Sklarski, stepped down as deputy to avoid political wrangling and allow a newly appointed supervisor to choose his own deputy. Originally, the board was talking about appointing a new supervisor to serve until Dec. 31. However, board members discovered that if one of them accepted the supervisor position, he would have to step down as councilman and run again to regain the seat.
A public election will be held this November for a supervisor to fill the remaining year of Richard's term. In November 2015, an election will be held for a full supervisor term. Virtuoso does not intend to run.
Councilman Marc Carpenter said Virtuoso's appointment as deputy brought the town a neutral person to keep the town on track until residents choose another supervisor.
Sklarski agreed and quipped, "Those of us who have been married a long time, we know it's the woman who rules the roost."
Asked if they would consider running for the supervisor seat, either this year or next, board member had varying reactions.
Sklarski said that at the current time, he would say no, but added, "My options are still open should things change."
Councilman Charles Teixeira said, "I don't know for sure, but I'm considering the option to run."
Carpenter said his current work schedule did not allow him to consider running for the one-year term, but he might reconsider next year.
"I've always wanted it," Councilman Rob Clark admitted, but added, "Unfortunately, you need somebody able to do it full time. ... Right now, with work, I can't be here full time. It wouldn't be fair to the residents."