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First County Legislature took office in 1980

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 January 2014 at 12:00 am

First County Legislature took office in 1980

ALBION – In 1980, the first Orleans County Legislature took office after the former Board of Supervisors was disbanded. The new Legislature included front row, from left: Francis S. Nayman, District No. 3 (Albion and Gaines); James Murphy, administrative assistant; Stanley Dudek, at-large (west); Uldine Juhrs, clerk; and Arthur Eddy, at large (central).

In Back: Frank Berger, District No. 2 (Ridgeway and Yates); Raymond Cook, District No. 1 (Shelby, Barre and Clarendon); Thomas Young, attorney; James Piedimonte, at-large (east); and Lyndon Billings, District No. 4 (Carlton, Kendall and Murray.)

For more than 150 years, Orleans County’s government was run by a board of town supervisors. Each of the 10 towns had a town supervisor who not only was the chief executive officer for each town, but also managed the affairs of the county government.

Not everyone thought that was the best way for a county government to function. The bigger towns – Ridgeway and Albion – have about two to three times the populations as the smaller towns in Barre, Kendall, Carlton and Clarendon.

A lawsuit was filed in the 1970s that sought to end the Board of Supervisors and switch to the County Legslature.

I believe the lawsuit contended the Board of Supervisors wasn’t fair to the bigger towns, because the votes from those supervisors counted the same as the votes for the supervisors from the smaller towns. Some counties have a weighted-voting system to account for the population differences.

After the lawsuit in the 1970s, the county created a new seven-member County Legislature. The new setup created four districts that were nearly the same in population, plus three county-wide positions. The system allows residents to vote on the majority of the Legislature every election cycle because they vote for their district representative and the three at-large seats.

The legislative chambers in the County Clerks’ Building includes the photos of each Legislature team since 1980. (There are also many photos of the Board of Supervisors.)

I’ve heard a lot of people say they liked the Board of Supervisors better because the town supervisors seemed more connected to residents and aware of the goings on in the community.

Others have said that form of government clearly favored the towns and left the villages at a disadvantage. I’ve also heard some complaints that some of the town supervisors didn’t bring a countywide approach to decisions at the county level. Sometimes they could be parochial, trying to serve their respective town rather than the county.