Majority endorses 'strong leadership with measurable results'
By Christian W. Peck
Niagara County Public Information Officer
The top leaders of Niagara County's government are set to be returned for an encore after delivering a budget that cut taxes to their lowest level this century and imposed a half-million-dollar reduction in spending on county agencies.
The announcement came after majority caucus lawmakers broke bread at North Tonawanda's Dockside Bar & Grill, which played host to the legislative majority's annual dinner and leadership elections.
"I'm proud of what our team has accomplished this past year, and our program for 2017 will be no less vigorous," said Majority Leader Randy Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, who, along with Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, is wrapping up his first year leading the legislature's 11-member majority. "We will continue to produce measurable results, and that's a direct reflection of Keith's strong leadership."
The duo is joined by veteran Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, who has anchored the legislature's No. 2 post for more than a decade.
"It's been a good year, and I thank my colleagues for working not only to enact our tax-cutting agenda, but also helping make three major transitions very smooth," McNall said, referring to his accession to the chairmanship, Bradt's move into the majority leader post, and former Majority Leader Rick Updegrove's hiring as Niagara County's third county manager. "We began the year with a new team with a mandate to implement fiscally conservative policies, and we've done just that. We passed a serious budget that lowered taxes and cut spending by $575,000 over the previous year."
McNall began his tenure by delivering a terse, 26-minute State of the County speech that outlined specific goals and metrics for the county government's departments. Most goals were focused on cost reduction.
During that Jan. 19 address, he told fellow lawmakers and county department heads: "Niagara County must continue to use the same austere guideposts that have gotten us to this point if we are to remain prosperous. ... We should continue our year-long budget review process, which is the backbone of our cost containment efforts and the efficient delivery of services."
At Tuesday's dinner, he reiterated that position.
"That wasn't Keith McNall's message; that was this caucus's message. A year on, it seems like that message was received," he said.
Bradt, meanwhile, pointed to a wider agenda for 2017.
"At the same time we are controlling spending, we also need to wisely invest our taxpayers' dollars in things that make sense," he said. "We've worked with our colleagues in Niagara Falls to fund a study into a needed multiuse facility to replace the convention center, and we have other important goals to set as well related to economic development, orchestrating efforts to fight opiate addiction, and restoring contaminated brownfield sites in Niagara County. I suspect the next State of the County address will be bolder than the last one, even."
With the unanimous backing of the legislature's majority caucus, McNall, Bradt and Burmaster are set to be voted in formally at the legislature's Jan. 3 organizational meeting.