As L. Matthew “Matt” Landers contemplates taking over as Genesee County manager in about three weeks, he figures that if he displays half the vim and vigor as his predecessor, he’ll do just fine in his new role.
“The energy level that Jay exudes – it’s infectious, it’s important. There’s a lot to be said in having that energy and that great personality and that great style,” Landers said following tonight’s Genesee County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “I hope that I can come anywhere close to Jay’s ability to command an audience and liven a room …”
Landers was speaking about the high-octane Jay Gsell, who – when he retires on Aug. 14 – will have served the county in an effective and passionate manner for 27 years.
Legislators, prior to voting unanimously on the resolution to promote Landers from assistant county manager, honored Gsell with a proclamation recognizing his numerous accomplishments and extensive community involvement.
An Elba resident, the 43-year-old Landers said he admires Gsell’s ability to meet people, listen to them and quickly count them as friends.
“Jay’s ability to know everyone’s name – inside and out, third uncle, second twice removed – his ability to communicate in that manner is important,” he said. “To have that connection. He’ll see somebody out in the community and he’ll notice who they are, their name, their connections, their life story – how they’re connected to him. That’s impressive for somebody not from the area originally.”
Landers said he feels confident in his ability to communicate, acknowledging that his style “is a little more direct and to the point.”
“I can probably … say the same thing in a lot less words,” he said, before going on about Gsell’s energy and personality.
As far as the job itself, Landers said he is excited and prepared, having worked with Gsell the past six years.
“While it’s exciting, it’s also a challenge,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of work … The most things I do, I’m pretty even-keeled and levelheaded. I’m not going to overthink this. I’ve got a job ahead of me and I’m ready … to jump right in.”
He said that COVID-19 is “creating a lot of challenges for us at the county that weren’t there a year ago when I was looking forward to taking this opportunity.”
“Obviously, the COVID is going to put a big financial constraint on our budget and our resources, and we’re meeting with department heads already, preplanning for our budget, and preparing for different strategies that we can utilize to get through this difficult financial time.”
Landers mentioned that providing enough water to county residents “at an affordable rate” and navigating through the pandemic and financial concerns to eventually build a state-mandated new jail are priorities.
Holder of a master's degree in Public Administration from Brockport State College, Landers spent 10 years as the county’s deputy treasurer before becoming the assistant county manager. He talked about the plan that legislators and management drafted for him to eventually replace Gsell.
“The plan, in general … I thought the logic at the time – if everything worked out – that this would be a potentially a good fit for me to take over someday for Jay,” he said. “I was in the treasurer’s office for 10 years, enjoyed working over there with Scott (German), but when the opportunity over here came up, it was something that I kicked the tires, and spoke with Jay and some of the legislators then.”
German thanked legislators for “seeing what I saw (in Landers) when I hired him in 2004, and then quipped that Landers was “one of the top five deputies that I ever had working for me,” even though he only had three.
Legislators Marianne Clattenburg, John Deleo and Rochelle Stein congratulated Landers, expressing their pride in being able to promote homegrown talent.
“Matt, I could not be happier for the success that you have ahead of you,” said Stein, the legislature chair. “It will be another quarter of a century before this (transition) plan has to be put in place again.”
Landers said he couldn’t have had a better mentor than Jay Gsell.
“I have been able to learn a lot more about the county outside of the treasurer’s office, and have been put in a good position to succeed in the manager’s office because of the six years working under Jay,” he said.
Landers is active in the Kiwanis Club (he is a former president) and coaches and helps run a girls’ softball program. He and his wife, Melissa, reside in Batavia with their two children, Kaitlyn, 14, and Benjamin, 10.
Landers’ appointment takes effect on Aug. 15, and he will earn a base salary of $121,000.
Photo: Matt Landers, left; his mother and stepfather, Manetta and Paul Potter; and Jay Gsell following tonight’s Genesee County Legislature meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.