Dec 30, 2011 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
After five years serving in the Onondaga County Legislature in addition to his stint as a Lysander Town Councilor, Rich Lesniak has decided to retire from public service. During his last legislative session, held Dec. 20, he supported resolutions to improve the county’s water supply system in addition to some housekeeping items. He then joined eight other legislators, with a combined 102 years of service, in leaving the legislature.
The Baldwinsville Messenger recently caught up with Lesniak to get a glimpse into his thoughts about being a public servant as well as his plans for retirement.
Setting aside the public servant, can you tell a little about yourself (family, hobbies, work experience)?
I am retired from law enforcement from the State of New York Central New York Developmental Center after 25 years of service and still presently working for Security and Law Enforcement Employees, Council 82, AFSCME. I presently represent law enforcement employees in many agencies around the state. I have been married for 35 great years to my wife, Barbara, and have two grown children, Darcie and Carolyn. I enjoy golfing, my service to the Belgium Cold Springs Fire Department and traveling with my friends and family.
How long have you served in the County Legislator?
I have served in the Onondaga County Legislature from 1999 to 2000 and then again from 2007 to 2011.
Why did you decide to retire?
I decided not to run for another term for a couple of reasons. I knew my wife would be retiring in 2012 and did not want to run for a term that I may not complete. I felt it best to let the people choose my replacement rather than an appointment. I also felt it was time for new ideas from some younger thinkers. Administering a public budget of over $1 billion is going to need new and out of the box ideas to keep reducing the burden of taxes on our constituents.
What do you plan to do now that you are retiring? Specifically, what will you do on your first official day of retirement?
My first official day out of office, I will probably celebrate the New Year with family and friends. After that I plan on continuing to work my regular job for a few more months before I retire from their employment.
What has been the most difficult issue to handle during your tenure?
I would have to say the most difficult issue during my tenure has been the difficult budgets for the last three years. For this area to grow, we cannot continue to tax the people of Onondaga County the way we do. This county, state and school have built such a tax burden on the residents and business that there is no incentive for a company to move here. Without jobs for the residents of Onondaga County people move and the tax burden gets bigger on the rest of us. Many states tax for the schools from income tax, not property tax. This allows a company to locate in a state with a very low property tax bill and creates jobs.
In your opinion, what has been your “legacy” in the county legislature?
One of the issues that I spearhead at the legislature was a solar panel for Beaver Lake Nature Center. This solar panel has worked out very well for savings to the county and an educational tool for the visitors. The other accomplishment was the rebuilding of our 911 radio system. We had a system that did not allow fire departments or police agencies to communicate at an emergency. I was very pleased to see this system replaced with a system that is now being used as the regional model around the state.
What did you enjoy most about serving residents of the first district?
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about serving the residents of the first district was the satisfaction you have when you are able to resolve an issue in government for a constituent. Many times, residents just don’t know where to go to resolve an issue and to be able to assist them through government agencies whether county, state or federal was always satisfying.
What advice do you have for your successor? For residents you are representing?
My advice for my successor is to always respond to your constituent’s emails, phone calls or messages and be truthful. If there are issues you can’t resolve, call them and tell them. Also, vote how you believe the majority of your constituents want you to vote, not how you want to see the issue resolved.
My advice for the residents I represented is to engage your representative in your opinions. Many times, we as a representative, hear from the people against something, but seldom here from the supporters of an issue. I think they believe that they don’t need to express their support, but then when you are at an event in the community, they do express their support of an issue.
I will always be grateful for the honor to have served as Onondaga County Legislator for the first district. It has been a pleasure to try and leave this county in better shape than when I took office. I believe this county is in better shape than most counties in New York State and is in a position to have an opportunity to grow.