MICHAEL JOHNSON/Livingston County News
Town of Leicester
Hamilton retires after 37 years of public service
Leicester town councilman Richard ‘Bud’ Hamilton has stepped down as one of the county’s longest serving elected officials. A reception in Bud’s honor was held at the Cuylerville Fire Hall last Sunday, Jan. 8.
Beginning in 1969 Bud served three elected terms — six years — on the Leicester Village Board before being elected to eight terms, 31 years, as a councilman on the Leicester town board.
Speaking of his town board service, Bud confides, “I never expected to be on this long. When I first got there, I said, ‘four years,’ but somehow or other I kept getting in.”
At this year’s Republican caucus, Bud lost a ballot contest to Lisa Semmel and Karen Roffe, who went on to oust incumbent Democrat Deb Logsdon.
Bud took the defeat philosophically: “I knew they wanted to run. They beat me, so I decide to let it be. No hard feelings; Let them get their feet wet in the politics,” he commented.
Attending more than three decades of town board meetings once or twice every month “was interesting at times and at times it wasn’t.” In that period there were just two supervisors: Butch Douglass and Gary Moore. As councilman, Bud had a hand in shepherding three decades of town improvements, including highway infrastructure and paving.
The most significant event in that period — affecting both Leicester town government and Bud’s career as a salt miner — was the 1994-5 flooding of the Akzo mine.
Even though he was a mine worker, as councilman Bud cast one of the dissenting, minority votes against having the ash demonstration project in Leicester.
Today he reflects, “We might as well have not done it, because they spoiled the mine.”
“They had 6,000 acres mined out down there and plenty of room to put the fly ash in without making the pillars smaller. Guys that worked down there for years and years kept telling them that this [pillar mining] isn’t going to work.”
Intensive pillar mining took place in a particularly dangerous spot, Bud suggests, below the river valley where the bedrock was very then.
Army and airplanes
At age 18 Bud started taking flying lessons at the Perry-Warsaw airport. A lesson cost just $3 and Bud had his license within the year. He loved flying and may have been just a little bit reckless.
“I use to get reported for doing loops and for low flying,” he recollects.
Bud worked at the mine 42 years, beginning in October, 1953 and missing just the two years, May, 1954 to May, 1956, when he was in Mannheim, Germany in the U.S. Army, Bud entered the Army at age 23.
Although not an officer, he wrangled his way out of a tank and into the cockpit of the Army recognizance planes at Mannheim.
Bud started at the mine as a bagger, worked on track laying into rooms, then bulking loading railcars and as an equipment operator. Over the years he was witness to changes: the replacement of the electric railroad with the LHD/conyerer belt system, the early proposals for fly ash disposal, Akzo’s decision to be the ash purveyor, then the pillar mining, roof collapse and flooding.
When Bud wasn’t in the mine he was helping on his brothers’ farms. He is the last survivor of five siblings: brothers Bump. Earl and Carl (twins), Don, and sister Jean. All were raised on a Perry farm. Bud’s father came to the Genesee Valley in 1948, initially renting sections of the Chanler farm.
Bud retired on Oct. 1, 1995, the final day of hoisting at the old Retsof mine.