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county manager

For Stuligross, Career-Long Dream Coming To Fruition

HIRING COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

For Stuligross, Career-Long

Dream Coming To Fruition

By JIM KEVLIN  •  Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Kay Stuligross this week at Meadowood, a continuing-care community in Lansdale, Pa., where she retired to be near one of her five sons.

ONEONTA – Kay Stuligross has come a long way, baby.

Growing up in Oberlin, Ohio, in the 1940s and ’50s, the daughter of a college professor, her mother sometimes wouldn’t vote “because she didn’t want to cancel out my father’s vote.”

Raising a family in Oneonta in the 1980s, she and her husband, Hartwick College Economics Professor Jack Stuligross, agreed her time would be better spent raising their five sons instead of holding a fulltime job.

While attitudes of the time may have kept her from a fulltime profession, there was one constant for the inquisitive, engaged woman, who retired from the Otsego County Board of Representatives in 2018:  The League of Women Voters.

In the 1960s, she met her husband at college in Detroit, and they married “a year and a month to the day” after their first date.  In fact, “I set my wedding date on our first date.  It was a good marriage, providential.”

After obtaining a master’s, he joined the Federal Reserve in Dallas and, realizing he was the only one in the office lacking a Ph.D., soon enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, moving Kay and two babies to Norman.

Grocery shopping her third day there, she found the local League of Women Voters’ “Voters Guide” in her shopping bag.

In those days before websites and Facebook, it was common for local Leagues to submit written questions to candidates; the answers would be published in a booklet.  “Based on their answers,” the newcomer to the Sooner State said, “I knew who to vote for.”

Even today, age 80, retired to The Meadows, a complete-care community in Lansdale, Pa., she declared in a telephone interview the other day, “I don’t want to vote a straight ticket. I want to be informed.”

She joined Norman’s League, and became involved in collecting local data for a nationwide League study of poverty.

A newly minted, Ph.D., Jack got a teaching job at Central Missouri State, Warrensburg; Kay joined the League.  He moved to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisc.; she joined the League there and, when they departed for Hartwick in 1981, she was president.

“I came prepared to look hard at government here,” Kay said.  She soon joined the League of Women Voters, Oneonta chapter, and in the next decade served as president, and also on the League’s state board for two terms.

Her husband died in 2006, struck by a car while riding a bicycle in Southside Oneonta.

In 2007, she decided to run for the county board and was elected, and said her intent was, if possible, to see professional management achieved.  In 2009, she was also appointed to the city’s Charter Revision Commission, which created a city-manager job, with mixed results.

Naturally, she declared she was “pleased” on learning the Otsego County Board of Representatives, almost 30 years after the local Leagues’ recommendation, created a county administrator position Wednesday, Dec. 4, by an 11-2-1 vote.

“We need a trained administrator,” she said.  “The board members are hardworking, dedicated people, good hearted people who want the best for their county and the taxpayers, but don’t really haves the experience to do it.”  (Except, she said, farmers, some who have run sizeable operations before joining the county board.)

“No school board would act without a superintendent,” she said, “and they are much smaller than the county.”

In 2007, David R. Brenner of Oneonta, former county board chair (who then served as city mayor), conducted a study of professional management for the county board, and offered options to pursue.

At the time, however, the representatives were angry and divided after minority Democrats reached an agreement with Republican Donald Lindberg, Worcester:  He agreed to caucus with them; in turn, they elected him board chairman.

While supporting the concept of professional management, Brenner recommended against acting at that time:  Bringing a manager into such a rancorous situation would guarantee the innovation’s failure.

“It would not be successful until most of the board is firmly on board,” Stuligross recalled Brenner concluding.

Today, with Republican David Bliss’ relatively benign, bipartisan approach, the time may be right.  But Stuligross had some advice.

One, department heads will have mixed feeling, appreciating someone who can resolved issues day-to-day, but apprehensive about closer oversight.

“It is important the board not cause confusion by letting department heads come to them,” said Kay.  “They must reinforce the administrator is in charge.”

Two, the board must let the administrator fulfill responsibilities outlined in the contract, but should also ensure the “full performance” clause is met.

In particular, “the ability to work with others is crucial,” she said.  “Somehow,” before hiring, “they need to observe or otherwise learn about the candidates’ interpersonal skills”

County Manager Decision Expected Today

County Manager Decision

Expected This Afternoon

The Otsego County Board of Representatives was scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, on a historic matter: Whether to pass its executive authority to a hired professional, a county manager.
As of presstime the evening before, it appeared certain – as certain as these things can be – that a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and the sole Conservative representative would create the $150,000 a year position.

For the first report on what happens, go at late morning or early afternoon – and for continuing coverage throughout the afternoon – to www.allOTSEGO.com

On County Manager, Now Hard Work Begins

EDITORIAL

On County Manager,

Now Hard Work Begins

By the time you read this, it’s very likely Otsego County will have created a job of county administrator, joining all but a handful of counties around New York State.

Heading into the Wednesday, Dec. 4, monthly meeting of the county Board of Representatives, the momentum to professionalize government was clear.

Six of the seven Democrats were firmly in favor, plus two Republican leaders – chairman David Bliss and Schenevus’ Peter Oberacker.

Add in Meg Kennedy, the Hartwick Conservative who chaired the committee that firmed up the idea, and it’s a go and then some.

The final tally may include that seventh Democrat,
and perhaps two of the other four Republicans. Only Republicans Ed Frazier and Kathy Clark have been outspokenly against the idea that it takes a pro to administer a $120 million operation.

That said, the nays – Frazier, in particular – have raised cautionary issues in two Letters to the Editor published on www.AllOTSEGO.com.

One, it’s a big job. Two, a manageable expense – salary and benefits are expected to cost $150,000 a year – can get out of control.

Greene County, Frazier reported, “realizing one person couldn’t fulfill all the requirements of the position, … hired a deputy. There, annual spending for the office is now in excess of $350K.”

He concludes, “We have a lot of other line items in the budget that we could spend $350K on.” (Among them, perhaps $40,00-70,000 in costs being absorbed by the Susquehanna SPCA; but that’s for another day.)

Still, the consensus grew behind hiring a county manager as county reps recognized there’s too much to do, and much of it is too complicated for 14 non-expert citizens to accomplish at one monthly meeting and a half-dozen committee meetings in between.

It’s OK if you don’t want – or need – to do anything. But the Energy Task Force, a crisis in rural ambulance service, a complex (and, it’s hoped, cost-effective) renovation of county buildings, a possible new multi-entity highway garage, a stubborn (but, thankfully, not too big) homeless problem, changing tech needs, not to mention day-to-day administration.

It’s a lot; that’s hardly all.

To avoid mushrooming costs – that’s the county board’s job going forward: to prevent empire-building.
Accepting the county manager can’t do EVERYTHING is essential to his/her success. That means recognizing all things aren’t equal and setting priorities.

Further, there’s a lot of staff, brainpower and energy in place now, in 24 department heads and their deputies, in the Planning Department in particular, in the clerk of the board’s office, etc., that can be repurposed or “tasked” as necessary.

Not easy, but possible. It’s impossible now.

Attention will now shift to finding the right guy/gal.

Happily, at chairman Bliss’ insistence, the job description is wide enough to ensure a deep field of candidates.

If an MPA, fine. But brains, experience, healthy ambition, diplomacy (in dealing up to 14 bosses and down to department heads) are essential qualities.

If the vote goes as anticipated here, it’s only the beginning.

Kennedy, Bliss, Committee Deserve Praise

EDITORIAL

Kennedy, Bliss,

Committee Deserve Praise

Who gets the praise for professionalizing Otsego County government?

Foremost, probably county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick.

The idea caught fire with her, evident in her close questioning of SUNY New Paltz Vice President Gerry Benjamin, keynoter at “County Manager v. County Executive,” a forum on the idea Dec. 14, 2017, at Springbrook’s new community center.

In the months that followed, she became the first local county representative ever recruited to New York
State Association of Counties’ board, and tapped her new connections – Executive Director Steve Acquario and his network – in two years of study by her Intergovernmental Affairs Committee that led up to this week’s vote.

She did the heavy-lifting, but the concept would have gone nowhere without the consensus-building chairman, David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, who took the helm in January 2018, just as Kennedy’s effort began. Bliss has smoothed the way for a lot of progress, with this effort potentially foremost among them.

Kennedy’s IGA committee members: from the majority Republicans, Schenevus’ Peter Oberacker;
from the Democrats, Fly Creek’s Andrew Marietta, Gilbertsville’s Michele Farwell and Oneonta’s Liz Shannon. They attended a second monthly meeting 20 months in a row, absorbing the expertise Kennedy brought before them. They were sold.

Some credit should go Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, an Administration Committee member who little doubt votes nay. He engaged in the issue, and – as the grain of sand in the oyster – his challenges no doubt made the resulting concept stronger.

Of course, none of this happened overnight. Kay Stuligross, now retired outside Philadelphia, marshalled a League of Women Voters’ push for a county manager in the 1990s. That motivated her to run for the county board, where she served admirably for more than a decade.

The great Dave Brenner, former county board chairman, then Oneonta mayor, is also a scholar, and he prepared an exhaustive study in 2008 on the county board’s behalf that endorsed the county manager idea.

At the time, the board was particularly divided – Otego Rep. Ron Feldstein had cobble together a Democrat-dominated majority by enticing Worcester Republican Don Lindberg to accept the chairmanship.

Everyone was furious at everyone else, and Brenner sagely advised bringing a county manager into that turmoil would guarantee failure. Wait for a better day, he said, and so we have.

This has focused on praise, but some will look to blame the very same innovators. Praise – and hope – are more apt today. But the county representatives are embarked on a meaningful and – word of the year – potentially fraught experiment.

Surefootedly, Bliss, Kennedy et al can make it work, but success isn’t inevitable. Prudence, limits, economy, restraint, diplomacy are qualities needed in the months ahead.

COUNTY MANAGER POSITION CREATED

BULLETIN

COUNTY MANAGER

POSITION CREATED

11 Vote Aye; 2 Nays; One Absence

COOPERSTOWN – At 12:58 p.m. today, the Otsego County Board of Representatives created the position of county administrator.

Eleven voted aye. Nays were two Republicans, former county board chairman Kathy Clark of Otsego and veteran board member Keith McCarty, East Springfield.   The absence was Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, who has been outspoken against the position.

But the 11 ayes included a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and the board’s one Conservative, Meg Kennedy, who chaired the committee that created the position.

CHECK BACK LATER FOR FULL STORY

MARTINI: County Manager Will Save Much Wasted Time

ISSUE & DEBATE

Martini: County Manager

Will Save Much Wasted Time

Editor’s Note: This commentary from County Representative Martini was in response to County Representative Frazier.

By ADRIENNE MARTINI • County Representative City of Oneonta

MARTINI: A single manager will replace 14 doing intergovernmental coordination.

I am about to complete my first term on the Otsego County Board of Representatives as the District 12 representative for Wards 3 and 4 in the City of Oneonta. A few weeks ago, I was re-elected and will serve a second two-year term. Like my colleague Edwin J. Frazier, Jr., it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people who live in this district, regardless of whether they chose to vote for me.

Representative Frazier and I agree on many of the challenges that face our county. We also agree that our department heads and county agencies provide the best services they can to our residents, given the fiscal constraints imposed on them, both by our low property tax rate and by the unfunded state mandates continuously heaped on them. During the last two years, there have been dozens of moments where I have been in awe of what our dedicated employees can do with so little.

I have also been in awe of how much time, taxpayer dollars, and energy could be saved if there were one person in charge of coordinating the vital work our departments do. Take, for example, the efficiency of moving some county services into 242 Main in Oneonta. In order to relocate or create satellite offices for the Office of the Aging, the District Attorney, and Social Services, at least four committees have had to be involved.

While more engagement seems like a good thing, it frequently means four times as much work-time spent in meetings about logistics, rather than time spent providing tangible aid to our more challenged residents. This is not what these department heads have been hired to do, yet they have taken it on because they care about who they serve. These are the kinds of costs that are hard to show on a balance sheet. That does not make them less real.

Representative Frazier would like to see a reduction in the salary and staff of any department head who has had duties reassigned to a county administrator. What he does not account for is that many of these duties don’t belong to any one person or department. Currently, 14 people are responsible for inter-departmental coordination, which effectively means no one is responsible for it.

Still, as Representative Frazier suggests, $250,000 is a lot of money, even if you consider that the county’s budget hovers around $117 million. While we could (and likely will) debate the assumptions made when producing that number, it is a nice round one to use for the sake of argument. Representative Frazier suggested other uses for this amount, including a new 10-wheel dump truck/plow or increased treatment and prevention services to those affected by the opioid crisis. Which, on their surface, are all good things.

What he failed to account for are line items like the cost for maintaining that new dump truck, as well as the salary and fringe benefits for the person hired to drive it. Given the difficulties the county has had hiring people to drive trucks we already own, the assumption that truck could be put in use is large one. The same staffing problem is evident when discussing increased services for those affected by substance use disorder. There are currently funded lines in the budget for social services that we can’t find qualified workers to fill because surrounding counties and the private sector are willing to pay them more.

Representative Frazier and I agree if a county administrator position is created and filled, the structure of the board and its committees should be re-evaluated. Some committees could be eliminated, including Negotiations, Performance Review and Goal Setting, and the Strategic Planning and Technology Committee. If the county administrator position works as drafted, the current number of representatives could be reduced.

While we can make predictions about what might happen once a county administrator is in place, we won’t know until we begin the process, assuming we can find a qualified applicant who will be effective at her or his job. However, we do know now that we are not safeguarding taxpayers’ money as expertly as we could, nor are we allowing our hard-working employees to thrive in the jobs they were trained to do. Simply buying a new truck will not solve those fundamental problems.

 

County-Manager Plan Draws Few To Briefing

HEARING, VOTE DUE DEC. 4

County-Manager Plan

Draws Few To Briefing

The League of Women Voters’ moderator, above, greets attendees at this evening’s informational meeting on hiring a county manager, underway at this hour in Courtroom #1 at the county courthouse in Cooperstown.  A half-dozen members of the public attended, including Bill Waller, left, and Sydney Waller (not related), at right.  In the background are Village Trustee Jim Dean and Marie Ajello, Toddsville.  Inset, county Rep. Meg Kennedy, who chairs the committee that developed the county-manager proposal, introduces committee members, from left, county Reps. Andrew Marietta, Fly Creek; Liz Shannon, Oneonta; Peter Oberacker, Schenevus, and Michelle Farwell, Town of Butternuts.  A first briefing was held last Thursday in Oneonta.  The plan to create the $150,000-a-year job goes to public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the county board’s hearing room, 197 Main St., Cooperstown, followed by a county board vote.

CLICK FOR OFFICIAL COUNTY MANAGER WEBSITE
ALLOTSEGO VIDEO: Watch The Debate On County Manager

CLICK HERE FOR MEETING VIDEO

Watch The Debate

On County Manager

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, briefs her county board colleagues on 20 months of study and discussion on creating a county manager form of government for Otsego County. On this video, presentations by each member of the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee (Reps. Farwell, Shannon, Oberacker and Marietta) begins at 58:40. The board’s discussion and vote setting a public hearing on the $150,000 job for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, begins at 2:17:30. (Video by Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Energetic Case Made For County Manager

Energetic Case Made

For County Manager

Only 10 At Briefing In Oneonta City Hall;

Second Session Tuesday In Cooperstown

“I don’t think (county government) is run as effectively as the people who elect us should demand it should be,” county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, inset at right, told the 10 people who attended an informational session this evening in Oneonta City Hall on the county Board of Representatives’ plan to create a $150,000 county manager job to run the $116 million operation. Members of the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee – chair Meg Kennedy, and county Reps. Michele Farwell, Liz Shannon, Andrew Marietta and Oberacker – repeated presentations they gave at last week’s monthly county board meeting.  In the Q&A, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, top photo, who works with a city manager, said policy questions will be still be debated in open meetings, but operational decisions – his example: which roads get paved – will be made out of the public eye.  A second informational meeting – the League of Women Voters is running the sessions for the county board – will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the county courthouse in Cooperstown.  The official public hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, prior to the county board’s monthly meeting.  Seated at rostrum in top photo are, from left, the League’s Stephanie Bauer, and county Representatives Gary Koutnik, David Bliss (chairman), Farwell, Shannon, Kennedy and, with back to camera, Andrew Stammel.  Behind Herzig are two new county reps, Clark Oliver and Jill Basile.

DETAILS ON COUNTY MANAGER POSITION
NOW AVAILABLE ON WEB SITE; CLICK HERE
County Manager Decision Is Near

INFORMATIONAL MEETING 11/14

County Manager

Decision Is Near

The first of two informational meetings on creating a county manager for Otsego County is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Oneonta City Hall.

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, announced the second will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.

A public hearing on the creation of a county manager position was set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, the county Board of Representatives next meeting.

After that hearing, the county reps could vote that same day on the position.

CLICK FOR DISCUSSION OF POSITION

CLARK FOR REP. FRAZIER’S CONCERNS

FRAZIER: County Manager Job Won’t Pay For Itself

ISSUE & DEBATE

Frazier: County Manager

Job Won’t Pay For Itself

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Frazier’s letter arrived after this week’s editions of Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal had gone to press, and is published here so the public may review it before the first information meeting on the county manager position, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 14, at Oneonta City Hall.  A second is planned at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the county courthouse in Cooperstown.

Ed Frazier is county representative from District 1, Unadilla. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

To the Editor:

I am about to complete my fourth term on the Otsego County Board of Representatives as the District 1 representative for Unadilla. I was recently re-elected to serve my fifth two-year term. It is an honor and a privilege to serve my district. “Thank you” to all that chose to vote for me.

I do not take the duties of the position lightly. A primary responsibility, in my opinion, is fiduciary. Safeguarding the money that our taxpayers send to Cooperstown is a fundamental obligation of my office. Thus, this letter.

Some of my fellow representatives have spent time discussing the development of, and job duties for, a “centralized leadership position” for Otsego County. By creating and filling a county administrator position, they feel the right candidate will be able to identify and fix any so-called “inefficiencies” in our county government.

They contend that the savings from correcting these inefficiencies will more than cover the expenses of the position. That is hogwash.

2 Informational Meetings Set On County Manager

2 Informational Meetings

Set On County Manager

One In Oneonta, Second In Cooperstown

The first of two informational meetings on creating a county manager for Otsego County is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Oneonta City Hall, county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, announced today.

The second will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.

The informational meetings will set the stage for the official public hearing, planned at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the start of the county board’s monthly meeting.  A vote may follow at that time.

County-Manager Public Hearing Set For Dec. 4

County-Manager

Public Hearing

Set For Dec. 4

2 Informational Sessions Eyed

At Oneonta, County Courthouse

County Rep. Meg Kennedy discusses parameters of the county-manager job description with chair David Bliss during today’s county board meeting. They agreed on adding “preferably” to the job description to provide a wider ranger of applications. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

It’s all about envisioning a more successful Otsego County, then achieving it, county Rep. Andrew Marietta said today. In the background are county Reps. Farwell and Oberacker.

COOPERSTOWN — After the job description was expanded to widen the field of applicants, county board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, today set a public hearing on creating a county-manager position for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4.

The decision was an initiative by the board’s Administration Committee, chaired by county Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision, that has held a second meeting for the past 22 months to determine how best to craft a professional position to direct the $116 million government.

Before then, Kennedy said, she is organizing two public information sessions, one in Oneonta and the other at the county courthouse in Cooperstown, to allow citizens to get their questions answered. Dates to follow.

You Can Read County Manager Job Description

WHO MIGHT BE COUNTY MANAGER?

You Can Read County

Manager Job Description

Editor’s Note: Here are the qualifications for a county manager the Otsego County board was scheduled to consider Wednesday, Nov. 6.

►Section 3. Appointment and Term of Office

The County Administrator shall be appointed by the Board of Representatives and shall serve a term of three years at the pleasure of the Board of Representatives.
In the event of a vacancy in office, the County Board of Representatives shall appoint a person to fill the
position for the remainder of the unexpired term.

The County Administrator shall be reviewed annually by the Board of Representatives, or a committee
designated by them.

►Section 4. Qualifications

At the time of appointment the County Administrator shall possess the following qualifications:
1. Graduation from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university with a Master’s Degree in Business or Public Administration or a related field and six (6) years of professional experience in the field of public administration; OR

2. Graduation from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business or Public Administration or a related field and eight (8) years of professional experience in the field of public or business administration.

3. The appointee need not be a resident of Otsego County at the time of appointment but shall become
so within sixty days of the date of appointment and remain so during his or her term of office.
Failure to become a resident or to remain a resident shall be cause for dismissal by the Otsego County Board of Representatives.

4. The Board of Representatives shall appoint on the basis of these qualifications and on the basis of additional qualifications that the Board of Representatives may establish from time to time.

Reps Ready To Balance Credentials, Experience

EDITORIAL

Reps Ready To Balance

Credentials, Experience

As the City of Oneonta has demonstrated, moving to a city manager – or county manager, the issue of the day – can be “fraught.”

(That’s the word of the day – or year – all of a sudden, every reporter is finding every situation “fraught,” filled with possibilities for undesirable outcomes.  It’s the “Where’s the Beef?” of 2019.)

Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Otsego County Board of Representatives, after almost two years of study, was scheduled to vote on a job description and resolution to create the job. The resolution would set a public hearing for the next meeting, Dec. 4, and at that point the county reps could vote.

Before then, county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, who has championed the effort as chair of both key committees, Intergovernmental Affairs and Administration, said two public information meetings will brief citizens on the innovation and allow discussion and input.

The county board chair, David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, supports creating the county-manager job, but said he wants to make sure the job description is non-specific enough to give the county reps a big enough talent pool and flexibility in picking the right person.

As it happens, two local examples exist that allow lessons to be drawn.

In Oneonta, the city Charter Revision Commission that met in 2009-10 was determined to prevent the hiring of a “good ol’ boy” from the local power structure for the job.

So the job description specifically requires an MPA – a master’s in public administration – which narrowed the talent pool, and may have contributed to the failure of the first two city managers, before the position was stabilized under George Korthauer, a veteran administrator from Petoskey, Mich., who’s been able to pretty much avoid controversy in his two years on the job.

It’s been argued the MPA provision prevented executives like Joe Forgiano, then-retiring executive vice president at MeadWestvaco, Sidney, from being considered. (It’s unclear if he was ever asked if he was interested.)

But you can think of other eminent Oneontans, people like retired SUNY Oneonta president Alan Donovan or former mayor John Nader, who, lacking an MPA, might have stepped in nonetheless and performed superbly.

Then there’s Village of Cooperstown, where Teri Barown was seamlessly promoted from village clerk, and has been effectively operating since with nary a ripple.

The village administrator position had been created in the 1990s, but never filled. And in September 2016, recognizing more day-to-day oversight was required with downtown projects multiplying, Mayor Jeff Katz and the trustees simply promoted her.

It’s worked out great, (plus the village saved some money). Barown knew the trustees, knew what they wanted and what they would resist. She is knowledgeable, diplomatic, with a fine-tuned sense of customer service.

No problemo – not a one.

With such lessons to draw on, Chairman Bliss brings a commonsense outlook to the county manager job description.

Crafted with the help of NYSAC, the state Association of Counties, it’s not surprising the MPA provision is included, and others as well. That’s the sea NYSAC swims in.

But a range of work experience combined with a range of credentials appears to tilt toward the Cooperstown model rather than the Oneonta one.

That’s good, because too much narrow-gauged professionalism can also, little by little, squeeze out democracy.

School superintendents are a case in point: For instance, every school board resolution begins with “on the recommendation of the superintendent of schools,” as if boards of education can do nothing that their hired manager doesn’t suggest or endorse.

Given the requirement that superintendents implement ever more precise and far-ranging law and regulation, even they lack much leeway in determining what local schools teach and how.

And remember, 30 years ago, when voters could reject school budgets and spending would
actually be cut. Today, schools are required to provide so much of what goes on in schools, local boards of education can only cut things like the basketball team, which nobody wants.

You don’t need to go to Washington D.C. to find Donald Trump’s “deep state.” It’s alive and well at 89 Washington St., Albany, the state Department of Education, and in every school district in the state.

Also to watch for: Oneonta’s city manager system – to give him credit, Korthauer’s professional, low-key approach has settled things down – seems to have sapped Common Council’s motivation; committee meetings are routinely cancelled due to lack of a quorum, and it’s been months since any Council member has proposed a notable initiative. (Maybe the new cadre elected Tuesday, Nov. 5, will change that.)

The advantage of the existing county board is that it’s close to the people, and responsive … although not always as efficient as it might be.

It’s that inefficiency – Vice Chairman Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, mentioned expensive change orders on county jail renovations that keep surprising the county reps. A county manager, presumably, would put a better chain of command in place.

Kennedy, who is learning about statewide networking after recently joining NYSAC’s board, hopes the county manager will be able to seek out best practices and novel initiatives statewide to help fix local problems – with our challenged rural emergency squads, for instance.

Following the Teri Barown model, is there someone already at the county who could step up to the job, MPA or not? Karen Sullivan, the planning director who ends up in charge of much of county innovation, would certainly be a contender (although she says she doesn’t want what, at least at the beginning, will be a daunting job.)

Acting Treasurer Alan Crisman, IT Director (and Milford village mayor) Brian Pokorny, Personnel Director Penny Gentile, even current Clerk of the Board Carol McGovern come to mind as promising prospects after a sufficiently rigorous interview process. Working for an MPA while on the job might be a sensible requirement.

Bliss and county Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, a former vice chair, are also concerned about mission creep. A county manager, budgeted at $150,000 a year, might conclude he or she needs a deputy, then secretarial help, and before you know it we’re up to $250,000.

Bliss is determined stay on top of that. After all, the county already has $116 million worth of brain- and firepower. That should be enough.

At base, the world’s a complicated place – and that goes for local government as anywhere else. The right amount of expertise and executive ambition could serve the county well.

It’s not a slam dunk, no guarantees; but Coach Bliss understands the vagaries involved in playing the game. And to listen to him, we can hope for, not a NYSAC cookie-cutter solution, but one that can pursue local opportunities while reducing local challenges.

The point, in the end, is a happier, more efficient Otsego County.

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