Next county executive has to be leader


We are going to be electing a new county executive this year. What should we be looking for in that person? What are our expectations?

The headline of the Publisher’s notebook in the OBSERVER (May 3) by John D’Agostino was “Executive post a losing proposition.” He also concluded his comment with the statement “It is time for a county manager.” If all we expect from the county executive is management of county functions, then I would agree that we might be better off hiring a professional manager than electing a politician.

But is that all we should be expecting from the highest elected official in the county? The issue is one of a manager as an administrator or a manager as a leader. A good manager may be a great administrator but not a leader. And what the county needs is a leader, a proactive, visionary leader. The administrative function is the basic requirement based on the executive’s positional authority; the leadership function is based on positional influence.

No, the position does not give authority in other areas but that doesn’t mean that the position doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have influence in other areas.

The county executive needs to be that visionary leader. He/she needs to work with all the organizations in the county to get them all on the same page, not only the county government, but the local governments, the business community, the schools, the non-profit organizations. They all have something to contribute to making Chautauqua County a community success.

We need someone who, instead of blaming Albany and New York City for our problems, will focus on the fact that we are part of the Great Lakes Region, one of the largest economic regions in the world. According to a Brookings Institution study completed in 2006, if this region were a nation, it would be the second largest economy in the world. Yes we are part of New York state with all the issues that entails, but we don’t need to hang our heads in discouragement for being at the tail end of the state.

We are in the middle of the eastern edge of an economic powerhouse. We just need to implement our vision as part of that reality.

A leader has the ability to communicate his vision and bring others along with him. Even if the vision is vague, he is able to get others to follow. As Gandhi said “Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.”

Is there anyone in Chautauqua County capable of being that leader?

Rod Rogers, a county legislator, is a Forestville resident.