Remembering a distinguished servant of Lockport

Friends and colleagues are mourning the death of William Keith McNall, shown here delivering his 2017 State of the County address as chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. McNall died on Wednesday, aged 74. (File photo) R-Lockport, delivers his 2017 State of the County address on Tuesday night at the county courthouse.

Longtime local public servant William Keith McNall has died.

McNall, a past Niagara County legislator representing Lockport, legislature chairman and member and president of the Lockport Board of Education, was 74.

Through its public information office, Niagara County on Thursday morning announced flags at all county buildings would be flown at half-staff.

“Keith was well-liked. He did an awful lot for this community,” said 13th District Legislator Anita Mullane, who defeated McNall in the 2019 election. “His years of public service to the people of Lockport will always be remembered. We were very fortunate to have had such a strong advocate working for us.”

Current legislature chair Rebecca Wydysh said she watched and learned from McNall during his 2016-2019 tenure as chair.

“Keith presided over the legislature with integrity, grace and professionalism. I gained much from him, and am forever grateful for his guidance and leadership," Wydysh said. "Keith had a quiet demeanor, but he was a fierce advocate for the people of Lockport, as reflected by his decades of public service in both the legislature and on the Lockport school board."

McNall had recently taken on the role of a STEM advocate for Niagara County Community College, according to Wydysh.

“His commitment to the community is unparalleled and his passing is a great loss for all who have known him and worked with him,” she said.

As a county legislator, McNall was an active advocate for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded to the City of Lockport by the state two years ago. A Republican, he ran for the mayor's post, unsuccessfully, in 2018.

Known for his common sense, fair play and good judgment in leadership and decision-making, McNall was featured for three straight years, 2017 through 2019, in Buffalo Business First's “Power 250” magazine listing 250 of the most influential and powerful people in Western New York.

Before entering the legislature, McNall served on the Lockport school board for 17 years, beginning in 1989, and was its longtime president.

His lifelong friend and former school board colleague Allan Jack said he grew up just a block away from McNall.

“I can't say enough good things about him. Keith was a gentleman at all times.  He had a way of leading by example and getting everyone on the same page,” Jack said.

As the president, Jack said, McNall led the school board through numerous potentially divisive issues and was “the glue that kept us all together. ... I don't think I ever saw him get angry with anyone, even if they disagreed with him.”

“We shared many good times over the years," Jack added, "but I think Keith was proudest of his wife Diane and son Todd. He spoke of them often to me.” 

“I was happy to have known Keith over many years and he left a legacy in Lockport which will never be forgotten." 

Follow John D’Onofrio on Twitter with “Good Morning, Lockport, N.Y.” weekday mornings at @LockportJournal.

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