Majority caucus elects leadership slate
By Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Wm. Keith McNall will be the first post-Bill Ross chairman of the Niagara County Legislature.
That move - rumored in local media for several days - became reality Tuesday night as members of the Legislature's dominant majority caucus - which controls three-quarters of the seats in that body - formally elected the Lockport Republican to succeed the long-tenured Ross.
Nominating McNall was Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, who will continue in that role.
A visibly emotional McNall thanked colleagues at the majority's reorganizational dinner, held at Pane's Restaurant in North Tonawanda.
"The role I now assume places me in a position of great responsibility in overseeing the accomplishment of our goals for our community," McNall told his fellow lawmakers. "The challenges county government faces today are unending, and I will try to lead our Legislature in the proper direction."
McNall, who currently chairs the community services committee, entered the Legislature in December 2006. He is perhaps best known for his tenure as president of the Lockport City School District's Board of Education. His six years as president were the capstone of an 18-year run making education policy in the Lock City.
McNall will helm a leadership team that includes seasoned veterans including Burmaster - who has served as vice chairman for 14 years. The Ransomville lawmaker also served as Legislature chairman three times, and is expected to play a key advisory role as McNall takes on his new responsibilities.
Meanwhile, second-term lawmaker Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, was elected majority leader, succeeding Legislator Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, as the majority caucus's floor leader.
The new majority leader told colleagues his goal was to ensure the majority remained aligned to its governing principles.
"Every policy decision we make, every statement we utter, must be judged by one metric: Does it further our governing principles? Is it in line with our repeatedly expressed values?" Bradt said. "This caucus has succeeded because it stands for something."
Bradt, an accountant, also emphasized the importance of containing both the size and cost of government through smart fiscal management.
"We know that government competes with both the private sector and the family for resources, and so its size and scope must be limited, and even cut back whenever possible," Bradt said. "The best future for our neighbors and our own children comes from fostering an environment that welcomes and promotes private sector expansion and investment, and the creation of jobs."
The majority caucus also elected a number of other leaders and county officers Tuesday. Legislators John Syracuse, R-Newfane, and Michael A. Hill, R-Middleport, will serve as deputy majority leaders.
County Attorney Claude A. Joerg will continue in that role, as will clerk of the Legislature Mary Jo Tamburlin.
Public Defender David J. Farrugia will be reappointed to that post, and Gary Billingsley will continue as attorney for the elderly.
After the votes, Burmaster urged his colleagues to stay the course.
"We have worked tirelessly to be good stewards of the taxpayers' resources, to give them a government they could be proud of, to give them the government they asked for," he said. "That can't change. That won't change."