Batavia resident accepts Genesee County information technology director position after long career at RIT
If the hiring of longtime Batavian Michael Burns as Genesee County's new information technology director turns out as well as the hiring of Steve Zimmer did a dozen years ago, County Manager Matt Landers and his staff will be delighted.
Burns, the manager of Client Services at Rochester Institute of Technology since December 1998, has been selected to replace Zimmer, who will be retiring from his full-time position on May 7. Burns (photo at right) is scheduled to join the county workforce on May 24.
“Steve came to us 12 years ago after 12 years at the University of Rochester and did an outstanding job,” Landers said today. “Michael is coming to us from RIT after a long career and we’re looking for more of the same.”
Burns, a 1984 Batavia High School graduate, coordinates the activities and work assignments of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Client Services group that consists of 12 full-time employees, two cooperative education students and eight to 10 student workers per quarter.
Client Services maintains approximately 500 computers in more than 60 NTID classroom/lab spaces, and coordinates NTID interoffice mail services, word processing, duplicating, class notes scanning and the NTID Help Desk.
Other responsibilities of the department include inventory maintenance, secure disposal of equipment, special event support first-level technical response, redistribution of equipment, and the research/implementation of new technology.
Contacted by telephone today, Burns said now is the perfect time for him to explore a new opportunity.
“I always thought that when I became retirement-eligible from RIT that I would want to look around,” Burns said. “Genesee County popped up on the radar and the more I looked into this position, the more excited I became about actually working in my own community – working where what I do affects my neighbors, the Genesee County community – and it affects my life as well.”
A Williamsville native, Burns’ family moved to Batavia when he was in the fourth grade.
“My dad, John X. Burns, worked for Genesee Community College and, ironically, I will be working at County Building 2, where my dad was working when he worked for GCC,” he said.
While at Batavia High School, Burns was in the band and played tennis for a year.
“I was never particularly good at athletics – I was a geek,” he offered.
After graduating from high school, he earned an associate degree from Alfred State before moving to Virginia, where he was the senior designer for Newport News (Va.) Shipbuilding, specializing in power and lighting panel design for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
He returned to this area in 1995, becoming technical director for the School of the Arts, which is part of the Rochester City School District. At SOTA, he provided varied computer support for all classroom, lab and office systems.
Along the way, Burns attained his bachelor’s degree in Management Information Technology from RIT.
Looking ahead, he said he is glad that Zimmer will be staying around on a part-time basis for up to three months to assist in the transition.
“I am so grateful that they are keeping Steve around so I can learn from him for awhile before having to go off on my own,” Burns said. “I feel like I’m following a legend.”
On Wednesday, the Genesee County Legislature on Wednesday voted to create a temporary, part-time IT director position to allow for “the incumbent to assist with the transition of a new information technology director.”
The resolution assigns a pay rate of $51.69 per hour, effective May 10 through no later than Aug. 10. Landers confirmed that Zimmer has agreed to accept the temporary job.
“We are very fortunate to have Steve agreeing to stay on as we fully understand the critical nature of IT and the need for a smooth hand off between directors. It is going to be sad to see a great employee like Steve Zimmer leave us, but I am excited to see what new ideas Michael can bring to Genesee County government,” Landers said.
The county manager conveyed that after an extensive search process, the interview committee of several department heads decided that Burns was the best fit to lead the IT department.
“Michael brings 25 years of experience in the IT field with him, the last 20 years spent at RIT managing a staff larger than what he will walk into at Genesee County,” Landers said. “His style and demeanor actually resemble Zimmer’s, which is something the group liked to see. We are confident he can take complex IT issues and communicate solutions effectively to the manager’s office and legislature, and be able to meet the needs of our numerous departments.”
Burns and his wife, Sharon, who works at the BEST Center at GCC, have one daughter, Courtney, who is graduating this year with a degree in Nursing from D’Youville College in Buffalo. D’Youville College participates in a tuition exchange program with RIT.
In his spare time on the weekends, Burns is the bass player for Triple Threat, a six-member party rock band out of Buffalo (that’s him, fourth from left in the photo below).
“We play a little bit of everything – '60s, '70s, '80s, country – you name it and we play it,” Burns said. “That’s my outlet.”