With Teri Barown, the Village of Cooperstown got professional management right.
In 11 years as village clerk, Barown earned the confidence of numerous village boards, of Democratic and Republican trustees alike.
When the Katz Administration launched a $10 million redevelopment of the downtown – the Tillapaugh Administration continued it – it soon became clear grantsmanship was too time-consuming for an unpaid part-time board.
With NYCOM’s blessing, Barown was promoted from clerk to administrator. A busy, drama-free, five-year period of accomplishment followed.
Just before Teri was promoted, the City of Oneonta lost its first city administrator. Over the next four years, it lost two more.
So what lessons might be drawn from Teri Barown’s successful tenure?
• One, she was a known quality.
No surprises, and that lesson’s been learned. Looking toward a new Oneonta city manager, City Personnel Director Katie Böttger’s and City Engineer Greg Mattice’s names have been mentioned. At the county, Treasurer Allen Ruffles is in play.
• Two, flexibility in hiring matters.
In addition to having a gem already on staff, the Village Board saved tens of thousands of dollars by promoting Barown and giving her a raise from $55,000 to $70,000 (with incremental bumps since then.) Common Council has paid well over $110,000 and up just to start. Teri didn’t have an MPA, as required in Oneonta’s City Charter; but she got things done.
• Three, she respects (and likes) people.
Asked what advice she has for her successor, she said “maintain an openness.” To trustees, she said, “Hire someone who can handle the duties, and work with the staff that’s here. We have excellent staff here.”
She called village clerk and, then, administrator, “dream jobs,” where she could serve a community of people she had known since girlhood.
• She was a good employee, excellent really.
Former Mayor Jeff Katz said: “She cared, but it was more than that. She’s emotionally invested in her job and the wellbeing of the village. Whatever was thrown her way, she
did it gladly and she did it well. She’s tenacious that way.”
That’s an employee everybody wants.
• She could handle politics.
While she was administrator, the Village Boards contained all Democrats. ‘Nuff said. Politics connects people with government; don’t cut that connection.
County board chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, have been coming to similar conclusions.
In effect, hire the right person – someone with commitment, experience and people skills –
and let them do their job.