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New Jefferson County department heads confirmed with less debate than expected

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Jefferson County legislators Tuesday night unanimously approved new leadership at the Department of Social Services and the Watertown International Airport.

DSS Deputy Commissioner Teresa W. Gaffney was cleared to succeed her boss, Commissioner Laura C. Cerow, while Grant W. Sussey, director of aviation at the Orange County Airport, Montgomery, was named manager of the newly created Airport Department.

Both decisions were unanimous among the 14 board members present. Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, was out of town on business.

When Mrs. Gaffney was named commissioner, applause broke out among a gathering of supporters who occupied nearly all the benches on one side of the aisle in the Chambers of the Board of Legislators on the second floor of the Historic County Courthouse, 195 Arsenal St.

Mrs. Gaffney’s nomination was challenged last week by Elizabeth Y. Daugherty, a caseworker at the Department of Social Services and president of the employees union.

Mrs. Daugherty said that while she had no problems with Mrs. Gaffney personally, she thought the process to identify a new commissioner unfairly favored a candidate who had already been chosen as the heiress apparent by department staff and county officials.

Mrs. Daugherty said she expected that a large group of DSS employees would speak out against the hiring process at Tuesday’s meeting and was “flabbergasted” when she discovered that she was the only one who showed up.

Mrs. Daugherty, who this summer was elected president of Jefferson County Unit 7150 of Local 823, Civil Service Employees Association, did not speak during the public comment period, which was dominated by remarks about an armored vehicle acquired by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

Mrs. Cerow, who is scheduled to retire at the end of the month, was paid a salary of $94,094 in 2012.

According to Tuesday’s resolution, Mrs. Gaffney will earn a salary of $76,388. Her appointment still must be approved by the state commissioner of social services. She is scheduled to take her new position immediately following Mrs. Cerow’s retirement.

Mr. Sussey’s salary will be $65,743. He will begin work Nov. 13.

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