"I wish Jason the best, but we can't waste any time (in finding a replacement) with all the projects we have going on." -- Eugene Jankowski, City Council president.
"Tompkins County's gain is our loss." -- Adam Tabelski, City Council member.
"He's coming over to the dark side!" -- Jay Gsell, Genesee County manager.
Those were the initial reactions from City of Batavia and Genesee County leaders to the news that Jason Molino, Batavia City manager for the past 11 years, has resigned to accept the position of Administrator for Tompkins County. Reports indicate that Molino will serve in his current post until the end of January, when he and his family will move to the Ithaca area.
(See press release from Tompkins County below).
Jankowski said he wishes Molino well, but admitted that he is "jealous of Tompkins County -- they're getting a good county manager."
He and Tableski credited Molino for creating Batavia's solid financial picture and for spearheading the many projects that have infused the city with federal and state money (specifically the $10 million DRI award) in recent years.
"I'm sad to see Jason leave; Tompkins County's gain is our loss," Tabelski said. "Jason has provided realiable leadership and continuity for over a decade, and is largely responsible for turning the finances around. It is readily apparent that he is respected inside the walls of City Hall, as he has done a great job of setting goals for the city and working collaboratively."
Both Jankowski and Tabelski said they weren't surprised by Molino's desire to advance -- the Tompkins County job comes with a much larger budget and hundreds more employees -- but would not say that stalled contract negotiations were the reason for his departure.
"I can only go by what Jason told me and he said that the last couple years were some of the best he ever had," Jankowski offered. "He never said, 'It's the way you treated me and I'm out of here.' I just think it is time for him to expand his wings."
As reported in The Batavian, Molino's salary of $93,782 was not increased by Council last month, but the two parties had been talking about a long-term contract. According to a story in the Ithaca Journal, the annual salary commanded by Tompkins County Administrators for a 40-hour workweek is $117,000. There is reason to believe that Molino's starting salary will be more than that.
Jankowski said that Council may put the search for an assistant manager on hold, instead ramping up its efforts to replace Molino.
"Speaking for myself, I think it may be best to hire a manager first, then wait until the new manager picks his or her assistant," he said. "Until then, the department heads can handle their own jobs. I've been through this before as a city employee, so we should be OK."
Jankowski said he also is "looking to the public to weigh in -- to let us know what our direction should be."
While joking that Molino is "coming over to the dark side," Gsell was serious when he said that Molino will "absolutely" do a great job for Tompkins County.
"Jason has been in New York State for a long time and he has experience in county government as an intern in Schenectady County," Gsell said. "Plus things are in good shape there (in Tompkins County), not like they were here when Jason came in."
Gsell said the biggest differences from city management to county administration focus on the social and human services programs, as well as Job Development, Office for the Aging, and overseeing a jail.
"Tompkins County has done a lot with consolidation under Joe Mareane, who was there for nine years and was well-respected," Gsell said. "Jason also has been involved with shared services, and this will help him."
Per Tompkins County's press release, Tompkins County began a national search for a new County Administrator in July, after former administrator Mareane announced his intent to retire. A diverse search committee comprised of county legislators, department heads, labor representatives, and community members narrowed a field of more than 20 applicants and conducted interviews. Three were recommended to the full County Legislature and were interviewed by all 14 members; new Legislators-elect observed and asked questions.
Molino could not be reached for comment this afternoon.