Quick change

Wendel chosen as Legislature Chairman, Chagnon as Majority Leader

Photo by Katrina Fuller Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, left, was chosen as the majority leader for the Chautauqua County Legislature after a brief Republican Caucus in the middle of the organizational meeting on Tuesday. Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, far right, was selected as the minority leader for 2018. Also pictured are legislators Bob Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia.

MAYVILLE — The New Year brought more than a few changes to the Chautauqua County Legislature.

In a surprising development, Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, will now be the Chautauqua County Legislature majority leader for 2018. PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood, was also given a new title as the legislature chairman for 2018. The changes were made during the legislature’s reorganizational meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Wendel was nominated and approved by the legislature shortly after the beginning of the meeting. Wendel said he is glad to serve and is looking forward to working with everyone, no matter their politics.

“I think the success of the Chautauqua County government and the Chautauqua County Legislature has been our bipartisan efforts, and the ability for those of us in here to do the business of Chautauqua County in a manner that doesn’t reflect politics, that doesn’t reflect individual ambitions or party agendas,” he said. “I want to thank Mr. Himelein, our previous chairman, and those who came before me.”

Wendel then asked for a recess for the Republican Caucus to meet in another room. The recess was approved, and the Republican members left the legislature chambers. Afterward, the meeting was called back to order. Clerk of the Legislature Kathy Tampio said David Himelein, R-Findley Lake, had withdrawn his name for the position of majority leader, and a new form had been submitted. Chagnon was designated as the majority leader instead, with Lisa Vanstrom, R-Jamestown, serving as assistant leader.

Photo by Katrina Fuller Legislator PJ Wendel was approved as the chairman of the Chautauqua County Legislature on Tuesday during the organizational meeting.

Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, was designated as the minority leader and Robert Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, was designated as the assistant minority leader.

After the meeting, Chagnon said the position of majority leader was not something he had sought after, but he felt it was important to do his part.

“I am here to serve, and the caucus had a need and they asked me to take on the role and serve in the capacity as the majority leader, so I said if that’s what the caucus needed and wanted, I’d be happy to serve,” Chagnon said.

Chagnon said the duties of the majority leader include attending a leadership meeting before the legislature meetings which allows the majority leader and assistant to meet with the minority leader and assistant to discuss issues in the agenda and come to an understanding. Whatever is agreed upon or discussed is then taken back to the caucus meetings which are held before the legislature meetings to be discussed. Chagnon said the majority leader also will step in and serve if the chairman of the legislature is absent.

Chagnon said the role came to him suddenly, and he had not “developed any goals in the last 10 minutes.” Yet, he said during his experiences on the Audit and Control Committee as chairman, he has worked along side Nazzaro often and that they work well together.

“He and I are like twin brothers on that committee, we think so much alike,” Chagnon said. “If there’s any opportunity that we can even work more closely together, I think that will present itself because we work so well together.”

Chairman Wendel said there has been a change in leadership, but the main goal is to move forward in “doing the business of Chautauqua County.” Wendel said he is looking forward to further bipartisan efforts.

“I want to make sure we’re keeping that in the forefront,” Wendel said. “I want to make sure we’re doing the work for the people of Chautauqua County.”