Former Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan said Friday that he is not seeking appointment to a vacant seat on the Water Authority Board of Commissioners.
Christopher J. O’Brien, one of two Democrats on the three-member board, resigned earlier this week, prompting speculation about whom the Democrats in the County Legislature might select to replace him.
Lenihan on Friday confirmed that he was approached but is not in the running for the post.
“Party leaders did ask me to consider it, but I never asked to be considered,” he said.
“It’s just not anything I’m seeking right now,” he said
“I appreciate those who have asked me to consider it,” Lenihan continued. “I have no desire to get back into day-to-day politics. I like my life the way it is now.”
Lenihan led the county Democratic Party for a decade before stepping down last year. For 20 years prior to that, he represented the Town of Tonawanda in the Legislature and also served as chairman of the Legislature for a good portion of the 1990s, after which he served as personnel commissioner under then-County Executive Dennis T. Gorski in 1996.
In January, he was appointed by County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to serve a seven-year term on the 10-member board of trustees at Erie Community College. The retired 65-year-old said he also runs a small political consulting business, which, along with his other civic endeavors, keeps him plenty busy.
Meanwhile, Democrats are seeking to fill the seat vacated by O’Brien before the end of the month. Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, a Buffalo Democrat, is accepting résumés from prospective candidates through Friday. The following Monday, the Legislatures’s Energy and Environment Committee will conduct interviews with the candidates in open session.
Lenihan on Friday said that he had not submitted anything in writing to Grant, nor did he intend to.
“It’s a process. You don’t just get appointed just because somebody mentions your name,” Lenihan said.
O’Brien, who was appointed to the Water Authority in April, had more than two years left on his three-year term of office, which was set to expire in April 2016. If his seat were to remain vacant through the end of this year, it is conceivable that the Legislature’s incoming Republican majority could seek to fill the vacancy with a Republican instead.
Board Chairman Francis G. Warthling is the remaining Democratic commissioner on the Water Authority Board. His term will expire in April 2015, while the term for the board’s Republican commissioner, Vice Chairman Earl L. Jann, expires in April 2014.
By state statute, the Water Authority board must include members of both major parties. However, it is common practice that the party holding the majority in the Legislature generally seeks to appoint two of its members to the board. If the Democrats act swiftly, the party will retain its two handpicked commissioners despite the Legislature’s incoming Republican majority.
It also is a long-held custom that candidates from both parties are selected from among the ranks of the politically connected.