50th anniversary of Yates County legislature ushers in first chairwoman

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

YATES COUNTY -- The first week of January 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Yates County Legislature, the directly elected body of district representatives who replaced the previous Yates County Board of Supervisors.

The first chairman of that newly formed body was P. Henry Flynn, of Torrey, who was also the last chairman of the Board of Supervisors. In the intervening half-century, that post has been held exclusively by men, despite the professional capabilities and skills of several women who were elected to the legislature.

That "glass ceiling" was finally broken Monday morning, Jan. 3 when another town supervisor, Legislator Leslie Church, of Milo (District III), was elected in a split vote cast by written ballots. Incumbent chairman Douglas Paddock (District I - Italy, Jerusalem, Middlesex) was narrowly defeated 8-6.

Yates County Legislator for District III, Leslie Church, who is also Supervisor of the Town of Milo, was elected as Chair of the Yates County Legislature Monday, Jan. 3. Church is the first woman to hold that position in the 50-year history of the legislature.

The Chronicle-Express obtained the ballots as a matter of public record. Casting votes for Paddock were Legislators Dan Banach, Ed Bronson, Tim Cutler, Dick Harper, Bill Holgate, and Paddock.

Casting votes for Church were Legislators Terry Button, Carlie Chilson, newly elected Jessie Jayne and Mark Morris, Patrick Killen, Bonnie Percy, Rick Willson, and Church.

Upon her election and following some genial applause, Church stated, "Thank you all very much for this opportunity to serve in this capacity, and I appreciate your trust." Paddock has stated his best wishes for Church's success in the position.

The election of vice chair was also cast in a paper ballot, with results tied 7-7 between Rick Willson and Ed Bronson. County Attorney Scott Falvey advised that the procedure was to have a revote, however, Willson then withdrew his nomination. Ed Bronson quickly replied, "But I was going to do that!" which brought laughter to the chamber. The examination of those ballots shows that both Bronson and Willson each voted for the other. In the end, the legislature re-voted verbally and unanimously for Bronson as vice chair.

While it is unusual for the 100% Republican legislature to be divided so closely, in recent months the votes on measures such as the ban on dangerous weapons in the County Building has exposed divisions among the legislators. That ban was finally passed last month in a much more diluted form which only prevents the open carrying of weapons.

It is also worthy of note that the top administrative positions in Yates County are now all held by women: Chair of the Legislature Leslie Church, County Clerk Lois Hall, County Administrator/Budget Officer Nonie Flynn, County Treasurer Marsha Devine, and County Finance Director Jessica Mullins.