Kennedy

Kennedy

Otsego County’s county administrator position has been posted and interviews will likely take place in May, according to county officials.

The Otsego County Board of Representatives’ Intergovernmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved hiring for the position at the committee’s meeting Tuesday, March 9. Personnel Director Penney Gentile said she will ask for a similar vote at the board’s Administration Committee meeting, Thursday, March 25.

“This year, hopefully we can move ahead with this,” said Board Vice Chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, Milford, New Lisbon, who is the chair of both committees. “(The) longest journey begins with a first step. We’ve already done tons of first steps. We’re at a new level of first steps,” Kennedy said.

A county administrator or executive has been proposed and discussed for Otsego County for decades, but it began to gain traction in the past five years.

Otsego’s form of government is unique in New York. Most larger counties in the state have either an elected or appointed executive branch leader. Most smaller counties in the state have a board of supervisors, which is made up of the town government supervisors who then function as county legislators, and typically elect a leader to function as the executive.

But Otsego County has a hybrid form of government, with a 14-member legislature that also serves as the county’s executive branch. The county representatives are considered part-time workers, leaving some gaps in the day-to-day business of the county government, including no direct chain of command between department heads and the committee system.

Talk of changing Otsego’s government led to a year-long study by the IGA committee in 2019. The committee decided against a county executive or an autonomous county manager, as both positions would require a change in county bylaws and perhaps a lengthy charter-writing process. The committee settled on the idea of an administrator, who would answer to the board, but be on on-site manager who would be in charge of day-to-day operations.

The position was approved in December 2019 and posted a year ago, but it was left vacant last year because of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the county budget.

Gentile said the position has been relisted and will be kept posted at least through the end of April. If the May interviews produce a suitable candidate, the full board could sign off on an offer in early June, with final approval coming in early July.

“This is going to move fast, there’s really no question about it. It has been a long time coming, but these next few months are going to fly by,” Kennedy said.

The meeting was held via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic and can be viewed on the county’s Facebook page. Rep. Michelle Farwell, D-Butternuts, Morris, Pittsfield, was not at the meeting.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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