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Lewiston Board Moves to Replace Palmer After 'Surprise' Resignation

By Craig Tretiak

Mike Marra seen as new leader.
Ernie Palmer resigns.

Top Lewiston Republicans were reacting with a mixture of what one termed "shock and disappointment" Friday after Town Councilman Ernest C. Palmer announced he would resign from government within days.

Despite the rapidity of Palmer's departure, a list of individuals who have either expressed interest in replacing Palmer or were being considered began to emerge over the weekend.

Because of the timing of Palmer's resignation, any appointee will have to stand for election in November if he or she seeks to remain in office.

"Our challenge is to find an individual who has the same commitment to Lewiston as our current board-and who can hit the ground running," said Town council member Michael Marra.

Marra indicated that several individuals had telephoned him to express interest, but refused to divulge names. "I'm not presently contemplating any individual, but I'm happy to hear anyone out who wants to consider serving-and that goes for the rest of the board as well," Marra said.

Marra, one of Palmer's fellow Republicans on the Town Board, said he and councilmen Ron Winkley and Al Bax, who constitute the Board's Republican majority, were "disappointed" but "focused on the future of this town" and would begin a search to replace Palmer immediately.

Individuals close to the government who spoke off the record noted that several individuals had either expressed interest or were being courted to apply for the opening by the town's GOP organization.

At present, those individuals include former village Trustee Bill Geiben, current trustees Bruce Sutherland and Victor E. Eydt, and popular former Mayor Richard B. Soluri. Also mentioned were former Deputy Supervisor Gary Catlin, who served under disgraced former Supervisor Steve Reiter, GOP committee member and former Niagara Wheatfield School Board President William Conrad, Lewiston real estate broker and long-time political figure Jeffrey Williams, former Lewiston GOP chairman Bob Ciszewski and real estate broker Tom Deal.

News of Palmer's resignation came Friday when he released a statement to local media Friday containing what has become nearly boilerplate language as his reason for leaving: he "looks forward to traveling and spending time with his family."

The resignation announcement also noted that Palmer would be devoting time to growing his tax preparation business, Ernest Palmer Tax Services, with tax season now gearing up. Palmer's resignation becomes effective Friday.

Palmer's departure brings to an end a political career perhaps more noteworthy for what it didn't accomplish than what it did: a failed run for sheriff a little over five years ago and a failed run for town supervisor last November-as well as successful campaigns that led to seven years on the Lewiston Town Board.

"We are disappointed in the decision of Ernie Palmer to step down from the town board," Marra said Friday night, acting as a spokesperson for the town board after speaking with Bax and Winkley. "However, we understand his desire to spend time with his wife, kids, and grandkids."

Marra offered his soon-to-be-former colleague praise, reflecting on the same themes that Palmer had revisited in each of his runs for office.

"Councilman Palmer certainly has served the town well-as well as the community-as a dedicated police officer and chief of detectives for the Niagara Falls Police Department," Marra said. "However, it is now time to turn to the future and begin to search for Mr. Palmer's replacement."

Marra said that he, Bax and Winkley had only become aware of Palmer's decision to resign on Thursday morning, and had not yet had time to set the timetable for replacement, but expected it to be "reasonable in terms of soliciting responses, but swift enough to restore full representation."

Marra said when the town board again meets next Monday, he expected to initiate a search for a replacement to serve as a town councilman through the end of the year.

"We're open to any adult town resident applying-except town employees, of course," Marra said. "We want a fair, open process-and that's what we will have."



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 18, 2014