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Gaines may have first elected municipal board ever in Orleans County with women in majority

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Mary Neilans takes the oath of office from Town Justice Bruce Schmidt on Tuesday at Gaines Town Hall. Town Supervisor Carol Culhane, back left, and Town Councilwoman Sue Smith watch the proceedings.

GAINES – The Gaines Town Board may have made history this evening. The board held its first meeting of the year and newly elected members from the November election were sworn in.

Mary Neilans and Richard DeCarlo are new members of the board, joining incumbents Carol Culhane as town supervisor and board members Sue Smith and Jim Kirby.

Neilans and DeCarlo replace Doug Syck and Dave Kast, who didn’t seek re-election.
The addition of Neilans gives the Gaines Town Board three women on a five-member board. I think this is the first time in Orleans County history that a town, village or county elected board has had a women-majority.

It didn’t occur to me until soon before the meeting at 6:45 p.m. that Gaines might be making history today. I shared my hunch with Culhane.

“Interesting,” she said.

I can’t say for certain if history was made. I’m not sure anyone has been keeping track or given it much thought.

Carol Culhane is sworn in as town supervisor by Town Justice Bruce Schmidt.

Culhane is starting her third two-year term as town supervisor. She just completed four years as leader of the town government. She is the first woman to serve in the role for Gaines. Sue Smith is starting her seventh year as a Town Board member.

Most of the local town, village and county boards are dominated by men. The seven-member County Legislature only has had two women ever elected to that board: the late Marcia Tuohey and Lynne Johnson, who is a current legislator.

Culhane, a professional artist, said she hasn’t necessarily been pushing for more women on the board. She said she has sought diversity of backgrounds and expertise. Neilans is a veterinarian and small business owner who lives in a house on the National Register of Historic Places. DeCarlo is a retired teacher, a former town supervisor and owner of Heritage Estates.

Kirby is a farmer and Smith has worked in education. Her husband Guy also is an onion grower.

Culhane appointed Smith as deputy supervisor during Tuesday’s meeting and that too may have been historic in Orleans County. It may perhaps be the first ever a municipality had two women at the top of a local board.

Gaines Town Board members include, from left: Jim Kirby, Mary Neilans, Carol Culhane, Sue Smith and Richard DeCarlo.