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Jefferson County appoints new leaders in two major departments

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Jefferson County legislators named their choices to run two major departments Tuesday at the meeting of the Finance and Rules Committee.

Grant W. Sussey received the panel’s endorsement to run the newly created Airport Department, which has been a success story for the county in recent years, and Teresa W. Gaffney won the backing to lead the Department of Social Services, the county’s largest department in terms of budget and employees. Mrs. Gaffney is the deputy commissioner.

Their appointments will have to be confirmed by all 15 legislators at Tuesday’s full board meeting.

Mr. Sussey, director of aviation at Orange County Airport, Montgomery, has been named airport manager at the Watertown International Airport after a statewide search.

Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, chairman of the board’s ad hoc airport committee, said several factors convinced him that Mr. Sussey was the right fit for the job.

“His credentials and his experience and the area he was looking to pursue, everything lined up for Watertown,” Mr. Ormsby said. “From square one, his resume and his interaction throughout the interview process made him rise to the top. I am very pleased to offer him the position.”

Mr. Sussey, who grew up in the town of Constantia in Oswego County, holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from SUNY Oswego and is a licensed pilot and a certified flight instructor.

“He had his pilot’s license before he had his driver’s license,” Mr. Ormsby said.

Mr. Sussey, 31, began his flying lessons when he was 15, flew solo on his 16th birthday and received his pilot’s license when he was 17.

At that age, with a junior driver’s license, he couldn’t drive after 9 p.m. He could, however, fly his friends anywhere in the U.S.

It was a skill that came in handy on the dating scene, according to Mr. Sussey.

The Orange County Airport, where Mr. Sussey manages general aviation and fixed-base operations, serves mostly private customers, including individuals and corporations. There are 150 planes based there in 129 “T-hangars” and eight corporate hangars. It is 55 miles north of New York City.

Frequent visitors to the airport include Paul Teutul Jr. and Michael Teutul, two brothers made famous by the Discovery Channel reality series “American Chopper,” which was filmed in Orange County.

According to the Hudson Valley Insider, Mr. Sussey received the Federal Aviation Administration’s Eastern Region Administration’s “Working Together” award in August 2012 for alerting the FAA to an accident at the Orange County Airport, providing access to the accident site and assisting in the investigation of the accident.

Mr. Sussey was selected from among seven qualified candidates out of a field of 60 applicants, according to County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III.

“I’ve been in aviation and flying as long as I can remember,” Mr. Sussey said. “I look forward to the resolution on Oct. 1 and to bringing Jefferson County my aviation knowledge and skills and putting them to work for the citizens and the community.”

If confirmed by the full board, Mr. Sussey will begin work at the airport Nov. 13.

The Board of Legislators created the Airport Department and the airport manager position in June. The county took over the facility from the city of Watertown in 2006. Since that time, and up until Mr. Sussey’s start date, the airport has been and will continue to be managed by County Highway Superintendent James L. Lawrence Jr.

“I know I’ll miss it,” Mr. Lawrence said. “It’s been a great opportunity for a highway superintendent to be involved with an airport. It’s been a team effort and it’s been great to see the success and growth there over the last seven years.”

The airport has grown by leaps and bounds since 2006 as a route to Chicago has been added and millions of dollars in federal and state grant money have been funneled to projects at the airport and the surrounding area.

And the growth continues.

The number of passengers passing through the airport in August is up 2 percent over last year, according to Mr. Lawrence. Jefferson County recently was awarded $451,800 from the state for a terminal expansion project, and the county has been eyeing plans for a corporate park at the airport.

Also on Tuesday evening, in a move that surprised very few people, Teresa W. Gaffney was named to succeed her boss, Laura C. Cerow, as head of the county Department of Social Services.

Mrs. Gaffney was appointed deputy director of the agency as a way to groom her for the role of commissioner, according to Mrs. Cerow, who plans to retire Oct. 31.

The interview committee for the position, which was composed of board Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown; Health and Human Services Committee Chairman James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium; Michael A. Montigelli, R-Black River; Michael F. Astafan, D-Carthage, and Jennie M. Adsit, R-Watertown, chose Mrs. Gaffney from among four in-house candidates, according to Mr. Nabywaniec.

“I’m confident that she’ll do well,” Mr. Nabywaniec said. “She’s very well qualified and has an in-depth understanding and a good handle on the constantly changing climate in Albany. I’m looking forward to the full board confirming this.”

Mrs. Cerow said that Mrs. Gaffney, whom she described as “my go-to person in every supervisory role I’ve had here,” is dedicated, aware and compassionate.

“She cares deeply about our programs and about the staff here and about the people we serve,” Mrs. Cerow said.

Mrs. Gaffney, who is originally from Potsdam, holds a bachelor of science degree in computer science from SUNY Plattsburgh.

She has been at the Department of Social Services for just over 20 years and has worked her way up from caseworker to deputy commissioner.

One of her proudest accomplishments is using her background in technology to help institute a pilot program that provides iPad tablet computers to caseworkers in the field to help them accomplish their jobs more efficiently.

Mrs. Gaffney said she is looking forward to learning about program areas she hasn’t been involved with before and continuing to work with the fantastic staff at the agency.

During the public comment period of the Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Elizabeth Daugherty, a caseworker at the Department of Social Services, said she did not think the county properly advertised for the commissioner position and it should have looked outside of the agency for qualified candidates.

Mr. Nabywaniec said he has not heard any complaints from Jefferson County Civil Service Employees Association Local 823, the union that represents many of the employees who work at the Department of Social Services, about Mrs. Gaffney’s appointment.

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