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Rachael Tabelski

March 11, 2021 - 9:15am

Batavia City Manager Rachael Tabelski was spot on Monday night when she predicted the “lower figure” would be allocated to the city through the $1.9 trillion federal relief act known as the American Rescue Plan.

Tabelski reported at this week’s City Council meeting that she received estimates “ranging between $1.57 million and $2.5 million, so I’ll go with the lowest figure -- 1.5 to come into the City of Batavia, specifically.”

Tentative dollar amounts released Wednesday by Sen. Charles Schumer’s office and the National Association of Counties indicate that the city will get $1.58 million as a result of the legislation.

Tabelski categorized the funding as a “windfall” in that the money must be used for certain projects such as infrastructure and not to “stabilize our operations.” Municipal leaders are waiting for more details on how the money can be spent.

Genesee County is targeted to receive $11.11 million, in range of what County Manager Matt Landers had forecasted. 

The county’s 14 towns are expected to receive $4.66 million, divvied up as follows:

  • Town of Alabama, $190,000;
  • Town of Alexander, $270,000;
  • Town of Batavia, $750,000;
  • Town of Bergen, $320,000;
  • Town of Bethany, $190,000;
  • Town of Byron, $250,000;
  • Town of Darien, $330,000;
  • Town of Elba, $250,000;
  • Town of Le Roy, $810,000;
  • Town of Oakfield, $330,000;
  • Town of Pavilion, $260,000;
  • Town of Pembroke, $450,000;
  • Town of Stafford, $260,000.

Allocations to Orleans and Wyoming counties are expected to be $7.83 million and $7.73 million, respectively.

In other City of Batavia government news:

  • Tabelski and City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said they are waiting to receive some outstanding invoices before determining the total amount that was spent to conduct the nationwide search for a permanent city manager.

Jankowski previously told The Batavian that he figured it would be around $5,000. The city contracted with The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, to assist in the search following the departure of Martin Moore last June. (The Batavian has requested an itemized list of all expenses).

Some residents have criticized the city for conducting another search (Novak was involved in the search that resulted in Moore’s hiring in 2018) when it could have hired Tabelski, who had been serving in an interim role for the past eight months.

Council opted to conduct a full search, however, as a stipulation in the contract with Novak indicated it would be provided at no cost, other than travel, advertising and related expenses.

As it turned out, even if the expenses involved to reach a decision to appoint Tabelski as the permanent city manager increase to $6,000, for example, the city will have saved significantly in salary over that time.

If Tabelski was hired in July, her salary would have jumped from (approximately) $7,398 per month to $9,166 per month – a difference of $1,768 per month. Multiply that times eight months and you get $14,144. The city did give Tabelski a stipend of $1,000 per month for the additional duties, so the savings decrease to $6,144.

But what also must be considered is that if Tabelski was hired in July, she would have brought on an assistant manager in short order. Even at a salary of $75,000, for example, that would have cost the city another $45,000 to 50,000 or so in personnel expenses.

Jankowski said initially he was in favor of “speeding up the hiring process” as he supported Tabelski for the job, but he thinks the decision to conduct the search was the right one.

“Looking back on that, I’m glad I acted on the feedback I received and supported moving on with a full and complete search,” he said. “It was fair and thorough. The search committee did a great job and I’m proud to have been a part of the process.”

  • Tabelski, responding to an email from The Batavian, confirmed that Ray Tourt had opted not to accept the permanent position of Department of Public Works director.

“After additional consideration, Ray Tourt has decided not to take the permanent/provisional appointment of Director of Public Works,” Tabelski said. “Ray, a 20-plus-year veteran of the city, is committed to the City of Batavia and will remain the interim director while the city conducts a full search, and hiring process for a new director.”

Once a new director is hired, Tourt will go back to his former position of superintendent of the Bureau of Maintenance, and the city’s Human Resources department will begin to advertise for the position of DPW director in the near future, Tabelski added.

Tourt was appointed DPW director in December after Matt Worth’s announcement that he would be retiring.

March 8, 2021 - 10:58pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Rachael Tabelski.

still_rachael_3.jpg

While the focus was on Rachael Tabelski as tonight’s Batavia City Council Business Meeting drew to a close, she preferred to keep her eyes on the task at hand – working to find the best ways to "move forward” in her new role as the municipality’s permanent city manager.

In an 8-0 vote, Council approved a resolution appointing Tabelski as city manager following her eight-month stint as acting/interim manager. Council Member John Canale was unable to attend the proceedings (a Special Conference Meeting preceded the Business Meeting).

Council and Tabelski agreed on a three-year contract with a starting salary of $110,000 plus benefits.

“I feel very, very excited. I obviously have a big passion for the City of Batavia – for the residents, for the work that Council does,” she said. “I think they’re a great body and I think they get along really well and they make really good policy decisions.

“So, I can’t wait to see and keep the planning that has been done in years before, that started through many members of this Council and (former City Manager) Jason Molino to move forward.”

When asked if she had any personal goals, she instead talked about: neighborhood issues; a strategy for the Batavia Ice Rink; the economic activity on Main Street; the impact of the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative awarded to Batavia; and the importance of bringing on an assistant manager.

“I was asked to do kind of your first 90 days and, first and foremost, I’m going to be hiring an assistant city manager and I think that will really be helpful … in terms of moving forward some neighborhood priorities and getting some community members that are interested out there in cleaning up their community -- because we know how many passionate residents we have,” she said. “And I think that is one thing the city just hasn’t had the personnel to help with.”

Tabelski, a 2000 graduate of Byron-Bergen Central School, said she couldn’t support a push to privatize the ice rink on Evans Street (formerly Falleti Ice Arena) until “coming up with a strategy – kind of figuring out where we are today and what is the strategy.”

She noted the validity of comments at tonight’s meeting from Stafford resident Bob Gray and Council members citing the importance of the facility as a community recreational outlet.

“We do have a great ice rink but it’s aged and there’s infrastructure investment that needs to go in there. We need to really strategize on how to do so,” Tabelski said, adding that a potential option could be finding a buyer or developer to purchase the rink and tie it in with residential property on a parcel (Creek Park) behind it.

Building owners in downtown Batavia have capitalized on grant funding to make improvements in recent years – enhancements that are ongoing.

“The businesses on Main Street and the buildings have been doing a great job improving with all the grant programs we have, and they’ve invested their own capital. That attracts new business to the building and downtown residents also,” she said. “So, once you start building the density of downtown residents, you’re going to start seeing businesses open on their own. I think that’s the only way we get there, and so I’d like to see more of that happen.”

Tabelski, who previously worked for the Genesee County Economic Development Center and the Batavia Development Corporation, said seeing the DRI projects advance means a great deal to her.

“I was very fortunate to be on the front end of that, writing the grant in conjunction with the city back when I worked for the GCEDC, and I can’t wait to see the projects that happen and how they transform our downtown,” she offered. “And when you start to transform the downtown and have more activities for people and youth, you’re going to start to transform your neighborhoods in positive ways as well. I think it’s all cumulative. So, each investment we make here will continue to spur new investments in our community.”

She said she envisions the assistant city manager working through some of the DRI grants that the city is coordinating and work on extra project tracking, grants, software projects and project management. The assistant also will assume the role of administrative department head.

“That’s important to oversee the clerk’s office, youth services as a whole, and (being able) to interact with the residents – like I said the neighborhood and housing issues,” said Tabelski, who was hired as Batavia’s assistant city manager in August 2019.

Tabelski predicted that Council’s decision tonight to contract with the GLOW YMCA to run the city’s afterschool program and summer recreation youth services will turn out well. She proposed that idea a few months ago after the city had to close the Liberty Center for Youth due to COVID-19 and also as the city was looking to save money in its budget.

“It was an option for Council to consider and I think they did very good due diligence in considering the options and determining how to move forward and serve residents still, and children – youth of our community – and choosing an agency that already is in that business to do the job well,” she said.

Tabelski recalled working for Assemblyman Steven Hawley’s office, answering the phone and listening to constituents’ requests.

“I understand how important your concerns are and when it comes to the city, I hope you always feel free to call Council members, to call City Hall and let us work with you. If it is a city issue, we’ll try to fix it. Also, we love people who want to volunteer and do certain things as we have numerous boards.”

Before the roll call to make Tabelski’s selection official, a few Council members commended Tabelski for excelling under difficult circumstances. One of them was Robert Bialkowski, who publicly voiced his opinion to conduct a thorough nationwide job search while some of his colleagues had hoped to promote Tabelski at the time.

“I would like to thank Rachael because as the acting city manager she really has gone the extra mile. You’ve been doing a great job and we all appreciate that,” Bialkowski said.

That prompted Jankowski, a Tabelski supporter all along, to quip – and draw a few laughs – “(City Clerk) Heidi (Parker), you want to make sure you get that whole statement there. And I feel the same way.”

Photo: Rachael Tabelski at tonight's City Council meeting where she was officially appointed as permanent city manager. Photo courtesy of Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

Previously: Council set to appoint Rachael Tabelski as city manager on Monday

March 5, 2021 - 2:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Rachael Tabelski.

tabelski.jpgThe Batavia City Council has selected lifelong Genesee County resident Rachael Tabelski, who has been serving as the interim city manager since June 22nd of last year, as its permanent city manager, and is prepared to offer her a three-year contract starting at an annual salary of $110,000 plus benefits.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. today said he has been impressed by Tabelski’s job performance, especially during a difficult time.

“I supported Rachel for the position because she is doing a great job under extraordinarily tough circumstances, and she’s also a local person who has been in the community for many years and is familiar with Batavia and the surrounding area,” Jankowski said today. “And she has served as our assistant city manager since August 2019.”

Jankowski said Tabelski has worked hard to deliver a budget for 2021-22 and was instrumental in the success of the City of Batavia Police Collaboration Stakeholder Group.

“She’s doing well with getting the city back on track, hitting goals, on strategic planning, and all that important stuff we look forward to as a community,” he added.

Council is expected to formalize the selection at its Business Meeting on Monday night at the City Centre Board Room. A Special Conference Meeting will precede it, starting at 7 o’clock. The resolution on the agenda of the Business Meeting stipulates that Tabelski's employment as city manager will begin on that date.

Contacted minutes ago, Tabelski said she would comment on the appointment during Monday's proceedings.

Tabelski's experience in the public sector arena includes serving as a Bergen Town Councilwoman, legislative aide to Assemblyman Steven Hawley, director of marketing & communications for the Genesee County Economic Development Center for eight years and director of economic development for the Batavia Development Corp. for a year before beilng hired as assistant city manager. 

Jankowski shared details of the search process coordinated by a committee of Council members Patti Pacino and John Canale, (former DPW Director) Matt Worth and Human Resources specialist Dawn Fairbanks, working in conjunction with The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The city had contracted with Novak for the search that brought Moore to Batavia in August 2018.

“The committee met with Novak and they started the process, which consisted of advertising and setting up the job requirements,” Jankowski said. “Initially, there were 35 applications and all applicants were screened to make sure that they were qualified. At that point, it came down to three people for final Council interviews, but one of the three people dropped out.”

That left two finalists – Tabelski and another candidate.

“I’m not at liberty to mention the other person’s name.

Council and three city department heads -- DPW Director Ray Tourt, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano -- conducted extensive interviews in executive session last Thursday (Feb. 25) with the two candidates, Jankowski said.

“While Council members were interviewing one candidate, department heads were interviewing the other candidate, and then we switched candidates – with the entire interview process taking about four hours. All told, the executive session went from 8:30 a.m. to 1:42 p.m.,” he said.

Additionally, Council engaged in a phone conference with the city’s psychologist, Jay Supnick, Ph.D., who had previously met with Tabelski and the other candidate to conduct a character/temperament evaluation.

“This is normal procedure during the hiring process for key positions of the city,” Jankowski advised.

After final discussions among Council members and the department leaders, Council decided to direct Fairbanks to start contract negotiations with Tabelski.

“The offer we are making is the same one that we made to Martin Moore when he started in 2018,” Jankowski said, noting that the contract will commence on Monday after the final vote by Council. “The agreement includes a salary increase of $2,000 in 2022 and again in 2023.”

Canale said that he preferred to comment after Monday's meeting, but did say that the residents of Batavia will be pleased to learn of the process used by Council to reach a decision.

Moore and the city departed ways on June 20, 2020, prompting Tabelski to move up from her assistant city manager role while a professional search for a permanent manager was taking place.

Advertising and other costs to the city came to approximately $5,000, he said, noting that expenses were kept in check because prior interviews and meetings were held via Zoom videoconferencing and there were minimal travel costs.

Previous: Acting city manager's deep roots, varied past converge in path to make a better, brighter future

Previous: Acting City Manager Tabelski: A prepared, in-tune team player working toward a common goal

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As the Yellow Zone restriction was lifted from Batavia, this meeting will be open to the public with appropriate facemasks, social distancing and temperature screening upon arrival.

Options for viewing the meeting:

Batavia News Service Youtube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOdvZ9lGH0FiD9ADz6Cg6EQ

Streamed LIVE on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/bataviany/

Spectrum Channel 1301 – Wednesday, March 10th  at 9:00 a.m. and Friday, March 12th at 8:00 p.m.

The agenda is posted on the City website under the City Council page.

The Batavian file photo of Rachel Tabelski.

February 5, 2021 - 1:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rachael Tabelski, batavia, live stream, video.
Video Sponsor

We plan to speak with Rachael Tabelski, Batavia's interim city manager at 2:30 p.m.

The livestream will appear right here on The Batavian's home page. Or you can view it on YouTube at this link, where you can ask questions in the live chat and we will try to get them answered for you. Or you can go to The Batavian's page on Facebook and watch the interview there and ask questions through that chat.

October 14, 2020 - 11:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rachael Tabelski, batavia news, notify.

On a vote of 7-2, the Batavia City Council approved an additional $1,000 a month stipend for interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, who has been filling the role since June after the resignation of Martin Moore.

Council members Bob Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted against the stipend.

Christian said she opposed the same stipend for Matt Worth when he was interim city manager after Jason Molino left, and to be consistent, she needed to oppose it for Tabelski.

"I'm concerned about a lot of people," Christian said. "We have long lines at food banks; people can't pay their rent or mortgage."

Bialkowski said he was applying the standard of the private sector, that when you're on salary you do the work assigned even if you fill in for a vacant slot at the same salary you were getting.

Council President Eugene Jankowski spoke in favor of the stipend. The assistant acts as a department head for administrative staff as well as other administrative duties and while department heads have helped pick up some duties the workload for Tabelski has increased substantially.

He also noted the City Charter requires the city to have a city manager and assistant manager. 

"If you're doing both jobs, it's a burden," Jankowski said.

Tabelski's base salary is $52,339.

Moore's salary was $110,838.

Jankowski noted that the stipend is not a cost that will put the city in a hole because they're currently saving money operating without a city manager.

The Council is in the process of identifying candidates, which may include Tabelski, to become the city's next city manager.

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July 6, 2020 - 12:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in Rachael Tabelski, news, batavia, Acting City Manager, notify.

tabelski_head_shot.jpgThis is part two of a two-part feature on Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, offering insight into her tenure with the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Batavia Development Corporation and an update on City projects and priorities.

Part one, which focused on her upbringing, education and influences, was published on Sunday.

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An avid sports fan, Rachael Tabelski undoubtedly was disappointed over the cancellation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I collegiate basketball tournaments this year.

She missed out on rooting for her favorite teams – the North Carolina Tar Heels and Syracuse Orange.

Unfortunately, a different and deadly kind of “March Madness” was unleased upon the world in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic and Tabelski, as Batavia’s assistant city manager, was charged with helping to navigate the community through a substantial downtown in the economy.

Almost four months into this health crisis, Tabelski finds herself as the Acting City Manager following the departure of Martin Moore on June 20. And, using sports as a unifying theme, she’s confident that Batavia and all of Genesee County will get through it and come out even stronger.

“I think sports is a great equalizer – it teaches kids and adults about teamwork, how to operate together to find a common goal and work towards it,” said Tabelski, who revealed that her other favorite teams are the Bills, Sabres and Yankees, and favorite player was NBA great Charles Barkley. “A lot of members of our community are involved in sports … and they know about moving in the same direction. We want more economic activity, we want more residents – more quality residents – and we want our neighborhoods back.”

Tabelski knows a thing or two about trying to attract business to Western New York. She spent eight years at director of marketing & communications at the Genesee County Economic Development Center and a year as director of economic development at the Batavia Development Corporation.

“I got to know the City very well during my days with GCEDC – almost as a liaison to the City, working with Steve Hyde on different Brownfield projects,” she said, adding that she loved her time with the BDC. “It was most difficult to decide whether I wanted to apply for the assistant city manager position because I do enjoy the economic development and the Brownfield development so much.”

She says patience is a virtue when it comes to Brownfield development.

“A lesson I learned from way back at the EDC is when you find a developer for a site, until their capital is ready, they’re not going to move,” she said.

A prime example of that is Ellicott Station (former Soccio & Della Penna property on Ellicott Street), a mixed-use project that has seen little visual change in the four years since it was announced that Savarino Companies of Buffalo had signed on as the developer. 

PATHWAY TO PROSPERITY IS KEY

Tabelski said City Council’s decision to join forces with the GCEDC, BDC, Genesee County and the Batavia City School District to form the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity puts the City in an enviable position to develop sites that were once considered to have no future.

The Batavia Pathway to Prosperity ("BP2") partnership is supported by the redirection of 50 percent of new project payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to go toward investment in distressed areas of the City.

“When (former City Manager) Jason (Molino) and the Council decided that they were going to get in the game to do planning on City sites, that changed the ability of the economic development center, in my opinion, to engage with the City on specific target areas,” she said. “Now, you can start building stories around planning and trying to redevelop, whatever that may mean. Grant funding, developers, land acquisition – anything of that nature that you could put around something to redevelop it.”

With the door open for the GCEDC to engage with the City, Tabelski said that a couple independent studies served as a road map for government leaders.

She pointed to two key studies: the czb (an urban planning and community development firm) report in 2010 that revealed attitudes and downtown and neighborhood needs and how to acquire those needs; and the Brownfield Opportunity Area study in 2014 that identified large strategic sites such as the City Centre campus, Ellicott Station, Harvester, Healthy Living campus and Creek Park (on Evans Street).

“All of these are underutilized areas in the city, some of which are contaminated -- which brings extra tax credits -- and this is where you need to focus,” she said.

DRI PROJECTS IN VARIOUS STAGES

Tabelski then proceeded to give brief progress report on projects being funded from the $10 million New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative that was awarded to the City in the fall of 2017.

-- City Centre ($1 million) – She said a feasibility study paid for by Empire State Development and National Grid with a buy-in from the GCEDC and City of Batavia on the match will be completed in four to six weeks and, after that, a construction plan will be proposed and shared with the public.

“We really need to study structural and utility pieces of the mall because we can draw whatever we want as an architect on a piece of paper, but what can the mall actually do or become?” she said. “Can it add a second floor? Can we open up parts of the roof at some point? We’re not going to spend the construction money on the mall until we have a path forward.”

She also said work on the mall roof is about 80 percent complete and will be finished this summer.

-- Jackson Square ($750,000) – Tabelski said the City’s contract with the Department of State has been approved by City Council and is in the design/engineering stage. A work group of business owners in that vicinity has been formed and will be issuing a request for proposal in the near future.

-- Main Street Theater 56 ($700,000) – Another New York Department of State contract, the City’s role is to lease space at the City Centre to the Batavia Players theatrical troupe, which is making monthly payments and is close to finalizing design and preparing for construction, she said.

-- Building Improvement Fund ($600,000) – Tabelski said that these funds go to the BDC, which acts as a conduit to supply the money for private building owners to rehabilitate their structures. She said she expects the Bank Insurance Fund (BIF)  and NY Main Street grants to create 10 to 12 new first-floor residential units as well.

-- Ellicott Place (Save-A-Lot) ($1.15 million) – “This will be one of the shining star projects that we have in this DRI,” she said. “It will be an amazing project that will bring more residential downtown and more commercial space availability. That and the theater will hit construction first, in my opinion.”

She also mentioned the Healthy Living (YMCA) campus, a project that received $4.2 million is DRI funds, and the former C.L. Carr building, a $1 million DRI.

Regarding Ellicott Station ($425,000 DRI), Tabelski said she believes residents’ spirits will be lifted as remedial cleanup continues and construction starts – and when Ellicott Trail in that area can be used.

“Each facelift that we do on the exterior of a building or each site that gets cleaned up or each building that is rehabbed or something new is built, it just gives a better sense to our community,” she reasoned. “Even walking from the Southside by Savarino’s project now, it’s not pleasant. But when that changes, maybe your attitude changes.”

CITY IN MIDST OF SOFTWARE UPGRADE

When hired as assistant city manager last August, Tabelski said she went from an “external-facing role” (in the public eye) to an “internal-facing role” – and that the transition has been fairly smooth.

As the assistant, she took on -- and continues to play a large role in -- a massive software upgrade called Tyler New World ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), a government-specific solution to help create greater efficiencies for local government.

“We were on a quasi-DOS*-based system that (former Assistant City Manager) Gretchen (DiFante) would have talked about years ago,” she said. “That opportunity was appealing and also to try to move the City’s technology in terms of PC (personal computer) usage, and everything that goes along with it.”

Tabelski she felt a sense of satisfaction in being able “to alleviate some pressures on the project management side.”

“To me, it was very rewarding to do that and also to be here to sit through all the budget meetings last year, and understand where the revenue sources are and where are biggest expenses are,” she said. “We have to protect our community with police and fire and those aren’t revenue-generating services. Where we have a water fund and a sewer fund, they can generate fees for the services you get … the commodity and the utility.”

Revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year is projected to decrease by 15 to 20 percent, Tabelski said, assuming a 30-percent reduction in sales tax. As a result, the management team instituted an austerity plan – cutting expenses, deferring projects and travel, and implementing a hiring freeze.

‘CUSTOMERS ARE OUR RESIDENTS’

Tabelski compared managing a city to running a business.

“Our customers are our residents … our board of directors is the Council,” she said. “They tell us how they want things, what products we’re going to provide for our residents and what our residents are asking for, and we tell them financially if we can do it or how to get there.”

Sometimes, a way to “get there” is to raise property taxes, which is what City Council approved for 2020-21 (a 7.5-percent increase).

As far as 2021-22 is concerned, Tabelski said, “I can’t even go there yet. We’ll start plugging in budget numbers in late October.”

The first two weeks of Tabelski’s new job have been filled with meetings – with department heads (police, fire and public works), staff and stakeholders.

She says the City is moving forward and she attributes that, in part, to her preparation and attention to detail. 

“I pride myself in being very prepared and creating an agenda in advance. I don’t want meetings to last longer than they have to. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” she said.

Tabelski also works with City Council President Eugene Jankowski to set the governing body’s meeting agendas.

Jankowski concurred that Tabelski is “very well prepared and researched before we get into a topic.”

A POSITIVE TRACK RECORD

“I’ve dealt with Rachael for several years now through her other roles in community – and I found her to be very in tune to what’s going on,” he said. “She makes good suggestions and ideas, and is not afraid to make a decision and move forward with it or make adjustments, if necessary.”

He said that Council has not finalized the process for finding a permanent manager yet. When asked about additional pay for Tabelski’s additional duties, he said the subject “hasn’t come up yet.”

Tabelski said she understands the future is in Council’s hands, but made it clear that she does want to continue to serve the residents of Batavia.

“It (Moore’s leaving) happened very suddenly, so I am sure they will get back to that and we’ll have some conversations about that,” she said.

“I feel confident that myself and the department heads are moving projects and priorities and things along, especially during COVID-19 where the rules are changing on a daily basis. Trying to effectively communicate to the public, to the Council and to the employees (in the midst of the pandemic) has been a massive undertaking.”

*(DOS: Disk Operating System)

July 5, 2020 - 12:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in city of batavia, Acting City Manager, news, Rachael Tabelski, notify.

tabelski_photo.jpg

On June 22, Bergen native Rachael Tabelski assumed the role of Batavia’s Acting City Manager, replacing Martin Moore, who departed after about 20 months on the job.

The Batavian sat down with Tabelski at her office at City Hall earlier this week to learn more about her life experiences and her thoughts on being thrust into the municipality’s leadership position.

Today’s first part of a two-part feature focuses on her upbringing, education and influences.

Monday's second part provides insight into her tenure with the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Batavia Development Corporation, and an update on City management projects and priorities.

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“I believe that every position that I have taken in the community – starting with working with Assemblyman Steve Hawley and then moving to the (Genesee County) Economic Development Center to the Batavia Development Corporation to Assistant City Manager and now Acting City Manager – has been, for me personally, a step to better serve the residents of the City of Batavia.”

Buoyed by the preceding statement, Rachael Tabelski says she is ready, willing and able to manage the City of Batavia staff and work in tandem with City Council to make the community and Genesee County “better than we were yesterday.”

Time will tell whether the lifelong Genesee County resident becomes Batavia’s next permanent city manager but, at this juncture, Tabelski said she is more concerned with applying what she has learned to help move the City forward.

Tabelski’s journey to her current station began as an inquisitive daughter of Joan Fodge, who is one of 11 children of a family that put down its roots in the eastern part of Genesee County just as the U.S. Civil War was drawing to a close.

“My grandfather, Adrian Fodge, was an engineer working for GRS (General Railway Signal) in Rochester, which is now Alstom (Signaling), where my mother works,” said Tabelski, a 2000 graduate of Byron-Bergen Central School. “He also had a hobby farm in the Town of Bergen.”

She said that her great-great-grandfather came over from Ireland in 1865.

“The same time Lincoln’s body was traveling the country on the railway, I’m imagining this gentleman coming over through New York City and into the Stafford-Le Roy-Bergen area,” she offered.

ALWAYS OPEN TO LEARNING

Tabelski said her family’s varied interests and careers made for enlightening discussions at family reunions.

“We have scientists and engineers in our very big family, which I’m very proud of, and they were always interested in learning more, so I guess that’s where I get it from,” she said. “I never assume I know everything about anything. I really walk into every situation wanting to learn more -- to understand it -- and I think that’s what makes me a good fit for the City of Batavia in terms of my attitude.”

After graduating from high school, Tabelski enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., a move precipitated by her interest in books by acclaimed murder mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell.

“It was because I read books authored by Patricia Cornwell, based off the medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia,” she said. “I researched it and found out that this college has a Forensic Science program. But I wasn’t great at science, and I learned that when I went there and spent a few semesters there.”

Tabelski then discovered the Public Safety/Crime Scene Investigation technical degree program at the State University of New York at Canton.

"That was big then. The show ("CSI") had just come out. It was great,” she recalled.

She said students would take cars, make skid marks and measure them, and also would dress up in suits on certain days to investigate mock crime scenes on the campus.

“I never thought I would understand science until I applied that. We did fingerprinting and got tested on it,” she said. “It really was fun."

EXPLORING POLICE WORK

After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2005, Tabelski did a six-month internship with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office under the guidance of Ron Harling.

“He was a great mentor and I encountered a wide range of experiences,” she said.

One of those was accompanying a police officer while on patrol.

“The first question they asked was do you know how to use this – a shotgun? Do you have my back?” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how to use a shotgun. Do I have your back? I’m the intern.'"

She said she took a couple of civil service tests in Monroe County that didn’t pan out, and decided that becoming a police officer wasn’t in the cards.

“Harling had mentioned a program called Public Administration at SUNY Brockport, so I enrolled in that,” she said. “And it was an amazing program with amazing professors who taught a really different way to think about government.”

She went on to explain the thought process.

“Most people think about government as a need to keep their job. So, it’s difficult – with little or big problems – to solve them because if you solve the problem, what happens to your job? We were taught to think differently. Your job is to solve problems and if it means that works you out of a job, so be it. You’ll find something greater, something bigger.”

HIGH PRAISE FOR HAWLEY, HYDE

Tabelski earned a master’s degree in Public Administration in 2008, while also entering the political arena as a legislative aide to Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and as a council member on the Bergen Town Board.

She left those posts in September 2010 when she was hired by the Genesee County Economic Development Center as the director of marketing and communications. She credited Hawley and GCEDC President Steve Hyde for expanding her knowledge of finances.

“I feel that I am strong in the financial field because of my work at the economic development center -- everything I did in terms of data and analysis and financial analysis, I certainly can attribute to the work there,” she said. “Steve Hyde was a great mentor and Steve Hawley was as well as far as understanding the legislative process in Albany.”

She said that working for Hyde and the GCEDC was like embarking upon more post-graduate studies.

“I got an MPA from Brockport and from Steve Hyde I got an MBA. I went to the Steve Hyde school of business,” she said. “He’s the most creative financial mind I’ve ever met, and he helped me understand how to be creative with finances in a positive way, not in a sneaky way. He showed me how to look at things differently and how to be very creative with finances.”

She said Hawley instilled in her the value of listening to others en route to finding solutions.

“I think Steve Hawley taught me that working with persons of any affiliation toward a common goal is the most important thing you can do,” she said. “Working with all sides of the aisle to achieve a common goal is more important than any type of affiliation. That’s the biggest lesson I learned from him.”

Tabelski said the community is fortunate to have the support of Hawley and agencies such as the GCEDC along with the “talented people” who are working for the City of Batavia.

BELIEF IN THE CITY OF BATAVIA

“We have an amazing, competent staff that works very, very hard,” she said. “When you have staff in the City that believes in the City, that changes everything. And the same goes when your residents believe in their City.”

She said traces her “belief” in the City to several years ago when she was working for the GCEDC. She and her husband, Adam, and their young children moved to Batavia from Medina, where Adam was village mayor.

“We moved here because we loved the direction in which the City was heading. We saw what the previous manager (Jason Molino) was doing and the previous Council had done, and believed that Batavia was on the upswing,” she said, adding that her husband completed his duty as mayor and deployment with the National Guard.

Tabelski said she was impressed with the manner in which Molino promoted Batavia.

“I have a very high regard for his financial acumen and his ability to drive excitement,” she said. “I don’t know what he was like as a manager internally, but externally he drove excitement. When you met him, you felt like you wanted to be in Batavia. You heard about all the good things going on – the rehabbing of downtown and the Brownfield projects.”

TRAIN RIDE TO MATRIMONY

It was during her employment with Hawley’s organization that Tabelski met her future husband.

“There was a local government conference where they had a train to Albany with government officials from Genesee and Orleans counties,” she said. “Adam was a trustee at the time, so I called, said ‘I need you to sign up; we need five more people to make this trip happen.’ ”

She said that Adam, who was then working for Sen. George Maziarz, replied, “If I become mayor, I will sign up. I said, sure you will become mayor.”

He did become the mayor of Medina – at the same time that she was serving on the Bergen Town Board.

“We had a lot of things in common,” she said, “and we got married in 2011.”

The couple has a son, Adrian, 8, and a daughter, Anna, 5. Both attend St. Joseph Regional School in Batavia.

Adam served on the Batavia City Council for more than three years but had to step down when his wife accepted the assistant city manager job in August.

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Watch for part two on Monday.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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