Editor’s Note: This is a guest editorial submitted by Tompkins County Legislature District 3 Candidate David Shapiro. It was not written by the Ithaca Voice. Submit guest columns to tips@ithacavoice.com.

This year’s election for Tompkins County Legislators now has a lot more at stake. With the announcement of County Administrator Joe Mareane’s approaching retirement, voters have one more issue to keep in mind before choosing who to elect.    

Hiring the next county administrator will not be easy, and it is likely the task of the next legislative body. With five legislators retiring and another two incumbents in challenging races, the electorate should consider what skills are needed in newly elected representatives. I believe having the experience to conduct executive searches, hires and evaluations will be crucial and I want to share with you some of the local successes I have had in doing just that.

As Board Chair of the Mental Health Association (MHA), I facilitated the Executive Director Search Committee that led to the 2015 hire of Josephine Cohen. I also helped establish the goals and evaluation criteria of her initial year. The MHA has since found stability with Josephine as their director.

As a member of the Tompkins County Mental Health Services Advisory Board, I helped interview the current Clinic Director and Deputy Commissioner, Sharon MacDougall, before she was hired in 2016. Since joining the County Mental Health Department, Sharon has helped develop a crisis outreach service, and more recently is responsible for the expansion of mental health assessments for inmates.

The hire of Sharon also happened while implementing the County Administrator’s plan to merge the leadership of the Public Health and Mental Health departments. I helped draft the outcomes designed to evaluate that merger.

The change in county leadership also comes at a point in time when existing surveys are being conducted related to the county jail and shared services. The jail study recently released is not recommending a jail expansion. This recommendation, clearly a win for many activists, furthers the need for the county to continue to seek to expand programs that offer alternatives to incarceration.  

It is also likely that the shared services study will also result in a recommendation that impacts programs and operations. The next County Administrator is responsible for ensuring all programs and services and effectively operated, but it is a role of the Legislature to ensure that all publicly funded services are in response to community needs and that they are managed responsibly within the constructs of the county budget.

Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” I began my pursuit of public office after I became convinced that the skills I have amassed in the nonprofit sector, advancing the needs of vulnerable groups through high-quality and cost-effective social service delivery, could be of value in local government. I hope my District 3 constituents agree and consider this value when before casting their final vote.