Jan 09, 2013 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Many people consider unrequested advice paternalistic and patronizing and as a result they not only ignore it, they’re actually offended by it.
That’s how County Executive Joanie Mahoney reacted to the unsolicited advice offered in November by the three ex-commissioners of Onondaga County Parks.
Still “dismayed” by Mahoney’s 2009 appointment of her cousin, Bill Lansley, as parks commissioner, the three former parks czars wrote the county exec an open letter. They pleaded with her to appoint someone with real parks experience as deputy commissioners.
“We implore the county executive to conduct a professional search, locally and statewide, to bring forth what we know would be scores of qualified parks professionals interested in this position,” wrote Bob Geraci, Jim Johst and Gary MacLachlan, each of whom had helmed county parks in the past.
Mahoney may have found the former commissioners’ advice paternalistic but what she called it was “petty.”
The ex-parks leaders were concerned that they deputy commissioner position would be filled by “a political friend or relative,” as was the top job. That, the former commissioners wrote, “would be an insult to this department.”
On Jan. 3, Mahoney added insult to injury by appointing her communications director, Marty Skahen, as deputy commissioner of parks and recreation at a salary of nearly $85,000. That’s about $10,000 a year more than he earned in the county executive’s office.
A graduate of Le Moyne College and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs where he majored in business and health services, Skahen has no background whatsoever in parks management. His wife, Kate, however, worked for county parks as an administrative director from 2006 to 2009. The Skahens live in DeWitt.
Marty Skahen knows more about the Beltway than he does about Beaver Lake. He worked for five years for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He took a break in 2004 to coordinate media operation for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign and inauguration, then worked as an assistant to HUD Deputy Secretary Roy Bernardi, a former Syracuse mayor.
Mahoney, Bernardi, Bush and Skahen are all Republicans.
Skahen knows more about Medicare than he does about the Salt Museum. For three years he was director of long-term planning at Van Duyn Home & Hospital.
Despite his lack of experience in the field, Skahen will surely do the best he can for county parks, but we’ll never know how much better things could be had a true parks professional been hired.
Who, for instance?
How about Bob Ellis, the longtime director of operations at Onondaga County Parks who won the 2010 New York State Recreation and Park Society Award for Outstanding Service?
A 36-year veteran of County Parks, Ellis has overseen Oneida Shores and Jamesville Beach parks and coordinated special projects. At the helm of Onondaga Lake Park for more than 25 years, Ellis supervised the transition of the park into one of America’s Top Ten Heritage Parks with more than 1.3 million visitors annually. Ellis also served a dozen years on the town of Lysander Parks and Recreation Commission, including four years as chairman. Just sayin.’
Because Onondaga County Parks has its headquarters in the Griffin complex at Onondaga lake Park and at 106 Lake Drive in the village, Liverpool residents have a more-than-passing interest in the department’s staff and operations.
Upcoming projects which Lansley and Skahen will oversee include capital improvements at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, High Forest and Onondaga Lake Park including an extension of the pedestrian trail along the lake’s western shore.
The crestfallen former commissioners – Geraci, Johst and MacLachlan – might consider the wise words of Miss Manners: “It should make it easier to refrain from offering unrequested advice to realize how unlikely it is to be followed.”
Riposo in F’ville Sunday
Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame saxophonist Joe Riposo, who lives in Liverpool, will lead a quartet performing a free Motto Musicale concert at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 13, at Fayetteville Free Library, 300 Orchard St., in Fayetteville.
The quartet’s program will focus on the work of notable jazz saxophonists including Cannonball Adderly, Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods, Charlie Parker and Syracuse’s own Sal Nistico. For concert info, call 637-6374, ext. 328, or visit fayettevillefreelibray.org.
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