TALK OF THE TOWN
by Ed Reilly
Whoever heard of a legislative executive?
I am not sure that our townspeople have ever pondered how unusual is the structure of Town government. Whoever heard of an executive legislator, or a legislative executive? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. (No fair attributing that name to me without the "oxy.")
At all governmental levels higher than the Town, the executive officer is not a voting member of the legislature. Presidents and governors propose, but the legislature disposes, leaving the executive to administer whatever policies result. They have veto power, but are subject to being overridden by a 2/3 vote of the legislature.
But at the town level, I am both a legislator (one of five) and the Town's executive officer. That means that there will be occasions when I must administer a policy or program that I opposed as a legislator. Does that give me a psychological problem? Absolutely not.
In the period November through December of 1969, I was Supervisor-elect during the final two months in office of my predecessor, D. Allen Fisher. A gentleman of the first rank who died just a year or so ago, he generously allowed me to attend the agenda meetings of the Town Board. (Open meetings were not yet required by law.) It did not bother Allen that I was the candidate that had defeated him, but he did have reservations about how such a zoological curiosity as a Democrat would behave in office (the Town never having had one in its 160 year history).
"Suppose," he said, "that the Town Board (which was still about to have four Republican Councilmen) passes legislation over your opposition that requires your signature as executive officer. Will you sign it?"
"Of course," I answered. "As a legislator and presiding officer at Board meetings, I will attempt to lead the Board in the direction of my convictions, and I will often move adoption of some resolution or other, but when a vote goes the other way, my oath of office will require me to execute whatever instruments are consistent with the Board's action. To do anything else would mark me an obstructionist."
"You mean you will introduce resolutions of your own?" said a surprised Fisher, who apparently had never felt the need to do so, and didn't seem to know that he could.
"Certainly," I said. "As a legislator, I have the same right to introduce a resolution as any other member of the Board."
A decision is a valuable commodity. Most decisions are not "right" or wrong" in any moral sense, but rather do they provide a way to choose a course of action over standing paralyzed like the donkey (or elephant) betwixt the proverbial bales of hay. The structure of town government as mandated in State law may be very different than that of other levels of government, but it works remarkably well. That is certainly the major reason it continues to hold my interest and keep me coming back for more.