Seven days into her new job Tammy Hathaway was already full-speed ahead.
After all, the city resident and new director for Batavia Development Corporation has the passion, background, and curiosity to take the job and run with it, she says.
Her background includes working at Rural Opportunities (Pathstone) and being on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative planning committee and on the City Planning and Development Committee, so structuring a file or project for financing, grants, and combined loans mean just one question for her.
“How can I put it all together? Those puzzle pieces are comfortable for me,” Hathaway said during an interview with The Batavian. “But learning about the actual projects? Yeah, that's what I'm really super excited about.”
Just prior to her interview, Hathaway — formerly executive director of United Way of Genesee County — was pouring over files full of project notes. She counted in her head at least 14 ongoing projects that she will be diving into — Theatre 56, Jackson Square, the Healthy Living campus, and Ellicott Station, to name a few.
Her flowing locks and love for high- and well-heeled fashion belie someone whose cravings for detail include building structures, construction plans, and even the wastewater treatment plant. Staff was talking about using sonar equipment to measure the sludge, and “I was, like, I’m home,” she said.
She talked about how a local contractor had stopped in before the interview and showed her a compressed structural beam. She hadn’t seen anything like it before, she said and asked where she could buy some. The contractor was surprised.
“Yeah, and I go, ‘Oh, don't be fooled when you see me around town in my stiletto collection,’” she told him.
Over at BDC, her focus will home in on Brownfield Opportunity Areas, a new category of sites for her.
“That's one of the things I'm very intrigued about. And that's the stuff that I want to know. I went up to a project earlier today that's already under construction, and it is about looking ahead to do a progress report. So to walk in and see, you know, new I-beam and structural stuff. You know, it's familiar to me. So it was just kind of going and taking photos and talking the talk,” she said. “But it's gonna be those other pieces that are like, ooh, this is new. This is what intrigues this switch in position. This job offers me so much that I want to know.”
For those who may know Hathaway, you’re also aware that she’s not shy to express herself. Admittedly, she has cursed a time or two while serving on a board and strives to be a nice, friendly person despite those inadvertent expletives. She agrees she's rather flamboyant “all day long,” and is fascinated by what makes people tick, she said.
“And just as I'm as inquisitive about people, I am as inquisitive about a lot of things, the mechanisms of how things work,” she said, explaining why she has served on up to six boards at a time. “So it's not that I can't say no, I don't like to say no because I want to know more, so when I'm already on five boards, and (Executive Director) Nate Varland comes to me at Leadership Genesee class and asks ‘would you like to be on the Board of Commissioners of the Batavia Housing Authority?’ Yes. Yes, I do. And he's like, are you serious?”
The 51-year-old’s job duties also include overseeing the agency’s grant and loan program. She doesn’t believe it’s as much about what a person wants to sell as it is about practicality: is that business a good financial investment? Does it fit into Batavia’s commercial landscape?
Her secret asset for determining who gets money? “I’m not emotionally attached to anything, except for Batavia. I want everyone to flourish,” she said. “The success in the city of Batavia depends on if they have a sustainable business plan.”
One of her “absolute best talents” is to surround herself with a solid network of friends. It’s that “amazing support system” that keeps her going, especially when dealing with the “hiccups” in life. She has at times posted thank-yous on Facebook for a gift, often her favorite snack, left on her porch.
“There are flowers and, mostly, Doritos,” she said.
The 2020 Geneseean of the Year recipient isn’t certain about why she’s been so drawn to construction-related topics. Her first husband got into construction, and she became more intrigued by listening to his discussions, and it grew after working for Rural Opportunities, writing rehab grants, reviewing bids for construction and becoming all the more curious with each step.
Another piece of it was her attitude as a woman in a traditionally male field: “I don't want you to know more than I know about it,” she said. “You know, I get that you’re boys and stuff.”
So what does Hathaway think makes for a vibrant downtown? Her answer was swift: cultural options. And she believes Batavia is on the upswing for that, with a variety of culturally rich offerings through the Business Improvement District, at Jackson Square, Eli Fish, the Farmers Market, and GO ART!, she said.
It takes initiative, and her philosophy is a way to encourage that from the community.
“I’ve always tried to get people to believe that giving is contagious. If I do it, and it makes you see that I have fun doing it, then maybe you will want to do it, and we can really have fun to do it together. You know, so the more people that we get involved in doing the cultural stuff, that just makes us ask, why do we want to leave if there's things happening here all the time?” she said. “I do think the vibrancy of our little city is that culturally we want things to do. We have people who are committed to creating things to do. Sometimes it takes a few more hands down. The more people we get involved, the easier it is. And when we can create, you know, those businesses where we live here and work here, and now we can play here. I'm a Western New York girl, through and through.”
Photo: Tammy Hathaway, new director for Batavia Development Corporation, in her office at City Hall. Photo by Joanne Beck.