Erik Fix was president of the Genesee County Chamber for 15 months before he filled the role of assistant city manager in July 2022. He joked that his kids ask him all the time, “When will you get your next job?” even though he's enjoying his current gig and has no plans to leave any time soon, he said.
He says that he likes a challenge, and now, at just two months shy of his one-year anniversary with the City of Batavia, Fix sat down with The Batavian to review his latest responsibilities and perspectives as a city official.
Do you feel settled in at this point, or are you still learning the ropes?
“I don't know that I'll ever feel settled in. And I'm sure I will always learn, there's just so much to do and learn in this position. But I do feel like I can start to add value in places. Whereas the first, four or five months, it was just, running around, trying to learn everything and get a grasp on things,” Fix said. “And now I feel like I have a good base now … where I can use my skill set to actually add value. There's obviously still areas that I have no idea about, or a small amount of knowledge of, but I do feel like when somebody mentions something, I know what they're talking about now. So that's good.”
Was it easier or more difficult to go from the county scope of a chamber to your particular tasks for the city?
"That hasn't really been the biggest challenge. It's actually, from that standpoint, it's a little bit easier to be able to focus on tasks and get them accomplished. I was only at the Chamber for a short period of time, but when you're there, you're looking at the overall viewpoint of the entire county and all the expenses. So if you're talking about doing something, you’ve got to think about how is this going to affect each individual village and town, as well as the city,” he said. “And here you can narrow the focus a little bit more, focus on, you know, our little neck of the woods. Obviously, we have to continue to collaborate with the county and with different entities, but you're able to kind of streamline that, the difference is the workload.
"And the capacity that we deal with here at the city is much greater than what we're dealing with as a chamber … supporting all the businesses in the community to having a full-time fire department and full-time police department, DPW, the whole nine yards," he said. "Just the grand scale of what it is to run a city is much larger than what we're dealing with the mission of the chamber.”
Why did you want this job?
“The challenge. I saw it as an opportunity to just really get my hands dirty and become a part of something and see my work pay off in a lot of different ways. If you were to ask me two years ago, if I found myself in a municipality working, I'm like, no, what are you talking about? It's crazy. But I really feel like it's been a blessing, and it's actually turned out better than I thought, even after I thought it was gonna be a really good opportunity,” he said. “It meshes well with my skill set, it meshes well with the fact that it's constantly active and keeps me busy and keeps my mind working … it’s just been really good. I'm really pleased with the move.”
During City Council budget talks, it seemed to be a running joke to “blame Erik” for increased communications costs due to a new phone system. That’s because it was one of the items on his to-do list as assistant manager.
The current phone service had become outdated, and the city had no one able to service the phone system anymore, he said. If something had happened to a phone or to the system in general, “we were kind of out of luck,” he said.
“So it's very important that we went through that process and got a new phone system, which also came with new phones, and we got that project moving. So when I got here, we were just in the process of going out to RFP, and getting proposals in for that,” he said.
He talked in detail about what that actually meant to get it up and running. There was the actual installation and building the system from scratch — if you call and get a voicemail, where will that go? Who will answer? Who needs this type of extension versus another type of extension?
All totaled, it was “150 some odd numbers we had to deal with,” he said. And there’s the reason for “blame Erik.”
“So it was a very expensive process that we went through. And then the other one is just going to be starting up next week, which, again, was maybe 25 to 30 percent started when I got here, but that's our online billing system for water bills. So that is how to work with our existing systems that we have, as well as the bank system," he said. "And this month’s bill in May will be the first time that folks will have the ability to go online to pay their water bills, which will be a huge benefit to not only our residents, but it's a huge benefit to our clerk's department, because hopefully, it helps alleviate a lot of what they're doing on a day-to-day basis, and making it easier for folks to take care of that.”
He brought in “a little bit of analysis” experience in regards to an online bill pay system from having worked at M&T Bank, Fix said.
“But it was mostly just project managing and ensuring that deadlines are being met and things were happening along the way that needed to get done. We were just wrapping up our software system launch, which there's still some bits and pieces of that that we'll be doing probably for the next year, year and a half until that's totally 100 percent on board," he said. "So learning that whole system, things like that took a lot of my time. I will tell you, I am not an IT person. I'm not an IT expert. But again, just utilizing the ability to project manage and things like that. It's been nice.
"And obviously we have folks here, Rachael included ... she was assistant manager, she was a great resource to help me get through that stuff. So that's a large portion of what we're doing," he said.
The list goes on, from a housing initiative to shore up an old housing stock in the city to reinvigorate neighborhoods. Fix, 51, wanted to get his hands dirty, and he'll have plenty to dig into.
"We've got new projects coming up, we've got new projects we want to see happen in the future. We want to start developing programs for people that want to renovate. And that's what the home fund is going to help us do is provide funding for those types of things," he said. "So it's a very large, encompassing project that we're trying to figure out right now. We have a housing group that meets on a monthly basis, and we're starting to prioritize where we start first, and what's the first step to really get this off the ground. And so that's going to be a significant part of the next probably three to five years to really get to where we want it."
Another of his responsibilities is to lead the City Centre entryway project, which was sent back to the drawing board for new estimates after previous ones came in above budget. There are four entryways, and a primary goal is to remove the silos, which leak, and then replace them with something that is “aesthetically pleasing and effective,” Fix said.
He believes that the project is back on track and is hoping for estimates to come back closer to what city officials had wanted.
Erik, what do you think about this job? How are you feeling as far as your longevity here?
"I'm not going to say it’s my last up because I said that at the Chamber. But I enjoy this position a lot. We've got a great staff. I've got a great group of people around me that are supportive and helping me to learn,” he said. “I feel like there's something to learn every day. And it's just a constant challenge."
Fix lives in Le Roy with his wife, Susan, and they have three sons, Brady, Jackson and Carter. Le Roy is a great community, and the school district is fantastic, Erik said, but Batavia has been and is his hometown.
As for the city, he wants to see it continue to grow into "a walkable, approachable, thriving downtown area."
"We've got a lot of momentum," he said.