Salamanca Town Supervisor, Clerk-Elect Known For Civic-Mindedness

SALAMANCA — It wasn’t uncommon to see Michael Phillips and his wife, Donna, together at Salamanca Town Hall, even if the latter wasn’t officially a town employee yet.

As town supervisor, Michael Phillips helped end an ongoing dispute within the highway department and was known to be very civic-minded, according to those who worked alongside him.

Furthermore, it was Donna Phillips and her tech savviness — especially with computers and the internet — that helped modernize the town’s record keeping. It was that knowledge other officials were excited to see when she was elected town clerk in the November election.

“She hadn’t even been elected yet but she was already doing a lot of the work anyway,” said Councilman Larry Stewart. “Donna just knew how to run things. She was great with computers.”

However, all that changed Friday evening when Michael and Donna Phillips were struck and killed by a vehicle as they were walking to the town hall to sign paychecks. The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office said it was still investigating the crash, which occurred at about 5:30 p.m. at the intersection of North State and Center streets.

Sgt. David Tobia of the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office said the pair was killed instantly when they were struck by a southbound vehicle on State Street. A passenger in the vehicle was taken to the hospital and later released; the driver of the vehicle as well as two other passengers were uninjured, Tobia said.

The names of those in the vehicle were not released Saturday.

News of the Phillips’ deaths was met with shock by town officials. Councilwoman Diana Brodie, a neighbor of Michael and Donna Phillips, said Stewart called her late Friday to tell her what happened. Brodie said she and Michael Phillips both ran for elected office in Salamanca at the same time, and each were re-elected in November to a third term.

“It was a pleasure to work with him,” Brodie said. “He and his wife were both wonderful people. They had the town’s best interests at heart. I don’t know what to say, really. I’m still in shock over this.”

Stewart, who has been a councilman for more than 25 years, said he, too, was in shock by Friday’s event. He said Michael and Donna Phillips together helped “get this town back together.”

“They are definitely going to be missed,” Stewart said. “Honestly I have no idea how we are going to fill these shoes with everything that they did.”

Stewart said Michael Phillips was good at “staying on top of things” while overseeing town operations, including the highway department. He said it was Michael Phillips who helped bring in a new highway superintendent that eased a lot of problems that had been ongoing for years.

“I’m still in shock,” Stewart said. “I had to contact the entire board. The town still keeps going and there’s stuff that has to get done. I just don’t know right now how we’re going to do it.”

Michael Phillips ran unopposed for re-election as town supervisor. Donna Phillips defeated incumbent Rosemary Shadden for town clerk by a vote of 117 to 41. Both ran as Republicans.

The board is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Dec. 27, for a special session to close out the town’s financial books for the year.

Deputies were assisted Friday by Salamanca police and firefighters as well as Seneca Nation marshals and the Seneca Nation Fire Department.