Salamanca’s Koch will be lone Democrat on County Legislature

Cattaraugus County Legislator David Koch of Salamanca will be the only Democrat on the 17-member County Legislature when it reorganizes Wednesday.

LITTLE VALLEY — David Koch is the sole survivor.

The Cattaraugus County legislator from Salamanca is the only Democrat to survive the Republican landslide in November.

When county lawmakers reorganize for 2020 on Wednesday, Koch will be the only Democrat on the 17-member County Legislature.

The two-term Democrat will be minority leader, although he won’t preside over any fellow Democrats. He’ll probably serve on every committee.

Along with newly-elected Republican legislator Laurie Hunt, Koch represents the city and town of Salamanca and towns of Great Valley, Red House and Coldspring. He is a retired Salamanca Board of Public Utilities employee.

Koch said with a one-sided County Legislature, he’s hoping the Republicans will treat him fairly and not exclude him.

“I expect them to treat me fairly,” he said in an interview last week. “We have always worked in a bipartisan manner.”

For the past two years, Koch has served as assistant minority leader, and prior to that, he was minority whip.

“Just because there’s only one Democrat doesn’t mean we don’t continue to provide the best services we can for the county,” Koch said. “I don’t know what the Republican caucus goals are. Four years from now, I expect a larger Democrat caucus. I want to keep things intact.”

Under the Rules of Order, as minority leader, the only committee post Koch is entitled to is vice chairman of the Finance Committee. The County Legislature vice chairman is the Finance Committee chairman.

Koch, who has served as Development and Agriculture vice chairman for the past few years, was also vice chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee. He also served on the Public Works and County Operations/Public Safety committees.

Only the Human Services and Labor Relations committees did not have a chairman and vice chairman from different parties. Most were a Republican chairman and Democratic vice chairman.

The Public Works Committee was chaired by a Democrat, Virgilio “Dick” Giardini of Allegany and had a Re[ublican vice chairman, Richard Helmich of Delevan.

“I wouldn’t mind being vice chairman of Public Works,” Koch said. “There are a lot of state highways going through the city and towns I represent.”

Koch said the county will be getting a multi-million dollar lump sum of money when the state and Seneca Nation of Indians settle their disagreement over revenue sharing payments from slot machines at their three casinos.

He favors using some of that money to help bring high-speed broadband internet service to underserved parts of the county as suggested last month by former County Legislator John Padlo, D-Olean. “I’d like to see the state internet contracts fulfilled and Armstrong Cable and National Grid settle their differences.”

Another area Koch is very interested in is Onoville Marina, which is not in his district. “It’s a beautiful spot on the Allegheny Reservoir, but it is underutilized. They are talking about expanding the campground onto Sawmill Run.”

An expansion to help bring more campers would help South Valley area attractions like restaurants and stores that depend on tourism, Koch said.

In addition, Koch has his sights set on what has been a Democratic seat for a legislator on the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency Board of Directors. “Because I’m the only Democrat, I hope to replace Dick Giardini on the IDA,” Koch said. “I want to try and help the economy and get businesses in here.”

Koch is also concerned about protecting prime farmland and wonders if it’s such a good thing for solar companies to be eyeing large tracts of farmland in the county.

“I give Sue Labuhn (the former minority leader) a lot of credit,” said Koch. “Hopefully I can follow her and do a good job for the county.”

The Republican caucus has chosen Howard VanRensselaer of Randolph to succeed James J. Snyder of Olean as County Legislature chairman. Snyder was term-limited and could not seek re-election to a fourth four-year term.

Legislator Andrew Burr, R-Gowanda, will serve as vice chairman and Finance Committee chairman and Michael Brisky, R-Franklinville, will be majority leader.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)