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September 11, 2020 - 12:05pm

Regional planning council looks to hire Jay Gsell as interim executive director

The executive committee of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council is setting its sights on hiring recently retired Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell as the organization’s interim executive director.

Although contractual details have yet to be finalized, all signs point toward Gsell, who retired last month after 27 years as the county’s chief administrative officer, stepping into the G/FLRPC position until a permanent replacement is found for current Executive Director David Zorn.

Zorn has announced that he will be retiring after about 29 years of service at the end of this month.

“We have yet to have him sign on the dotted line, but we are very excited for the opportunity for him to work with us and for us, and to shape our future,” said Rochelle Stein, G/FLRPC treasurer, this morning. “He brings a lot of energy and a lot of positivity … we’re just absolutely thrilled.”

Stein said the agency is looking for Gsell to work for three to six months with the focus on reviewing its policies, procedures and practices, and making recommendations to “put ourselves into that 21st, 22nd century (functionality).”

“This is an opportunity to take a look at the regional planning council, at our function, at our form – to make sure all of our counties and cities are getting what they want for their participation and membership,” she said.

Stein, the Genesee County Legislature chair, pointed to Gsell’s track record of success and mentioned that the G/FLRPC is fortunate to bring someone with his experience and contacts on board.

“With that in mind we elected to put in an interim director instead of immediately seeking a replacement,” she said. “It was fortuitous for us in that Jay’s retirement fell when it did. Jay has a great depth of knowledge as to the value of the planning council and the membership and the region.”

She said that they are giving him a “list of ideas and topics that we want him to work on to assure ourselves as we’re going forward that we are meeting the needs of our partners and constituents, and, of course, our planners and economic development people and our transportation people.”

“We’re just looking for him to really be the face for now of a change for us, and (the) updating and modernizing of how we work and what we work at. Not in a negative way, but in a positive, stepping forward way.”

Gsell said he appreciates being considered for the job, noting that he will be meeting with the executive committee in the near future to hopefully make it official.

“I guess you could look at it as sort of a ‘refresh’ of an organization,” he said. “Dave has been there a long time and kudos to him for his service. So, in the transition this is an opportunity for a regional organization to take a look at itself and that is what I will be helping to do.”

Other members of the executive committee are Chair Timothy Cutler, Yates County, chair; Vice Chair Tracy DiFlorio, Monroe County; and Secretary Zorn, who works out of the G/FLRPC office in Rochester.

Stein said that Genesee County contributes just under $10,000 annually to belong to the council, a fee that hasn’t changed in 10 years, which goes toward regional project administration and personnel expenses. She added that since Gsell is in the New York State retirement system, he is limited to $30,000 annually if he takes another public employment position.

“Quite frankly, we are getting a bargain with Jay’s experience and background,” she offered.

The G/FLRPC is represented by government and civic leaders from nine counties and the City of Rochester.

Its mission, according to its website, is to identify, define, and inform its member counties of issues and opportunities critical to the physical, economic, and social health of the region. It provides forums for discussion, debate, and consensus building, and develops and implements a focused action plan with clearly defined outcomes, which include programs, personnel, and funding.

Stein said regional projects center around planning, transportation, economic development and, when applicable, the census.

“On the planning side, if there are projects that need to be reviewed or planned for -- like the Walkable Communities Grant that Bergen and the City of Batavia received, where would you put a textured, drop-down apron for your pedestrian crossing so that you could accommodate people with disabilities? That was one of the grant-funded opportunities that came through the G/FLPC,” she said.

The council provides training for local planning and zoning board members and code officers in the county, she said.

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