Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today the forthcoming retirements of two key senior administration officials, Commissioner of Planning and Development Roger Akeley and County Attorney Ron Wozniak. Mr. Akeley has served Dutchess County for more than 25 years and Mr. Wozniak has over 12 years of service with the County.
County Executive Steinhaus said, “Roger Akeley and Ron Wozniak are two of my closest advisors and individuals who occupy two of the most critical and important positions central to the operation of County Government. Each of them has brought invaluable wisdom and expertise to Dutchess County Government. Many people, both in county government and in our community, have relied on their wealth of knowledge and expert guidance. Our County Government and our community at large will sorely miss them both.”
Roger Akeley began his tenure in county government in 1984 when he was appointed Commissioner of Planning by the previous County Executive. He was reappointed by County Executive Steinhaus in 1992 upon Steinhaus’ election to the position. Prior to joining county government, Mr. Akeley served in a variety of roles including Executive Director of Lakes Region Planning Commission in New Hampshire, Researcher for the Bendix Corporation in Ann Arbor and a teacher at a Navajo Boarding School in New Mexico. Mr. Akeley also served in the United States Navy as Lieutenant (junior grade) from 1968 to 1970. At 25 years, Mr. Akeley is the longest serving Commissioner of Planning and Development in Dutchess County history.
Mr. Akeley has been the point person for many far-reaching programs and initiatives. He prepared the County’s first master plan, Directions, adopted by the County Legislature in 1986. It was endorsed by 29 local communities. Later, under the Steinhaus administration, Dutchess County became a model for the 13 counties included in New York’s Greenway initiative. All Dutchess County municipalities have joined the Greenway and all but one are “compact” members, meaning that the principles of good development are embedded in every local municipal master plan and zoning ordinance. The “compact”, a bottoms-up approach to regional planning, is unique in New York.
Akeley further worked with County Executive Steinhaus and the Legislature to implement the Partnership for Manageable Growth, a one-of-a-kind program in New York State at its inception that matches County-level funding for preserving open space and farmland throughout the County. Dutchess’ planning efforts have been recognized through awards from the American Planning Association and the New York Planning Federation.
Many of the County’s most recognizable community assets began in the Dutchess County Department of Planning & Development during Mr. Akeley’s tenure, including the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and the Dutchess Rail Trail as well as the landscaped median on Route 9 in the Town of Poughkeepsie, the “opening” of Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie to traffic and the parking deck in Poughkeepsie for Metro North customers.
Housing activity assistance, always in collaboration with the private sector, increased dramatically during Akeley’s tenure. The County pioneered a “first-time homebuyers” and “rental rehabilitation program.” One of the County’s most prominent successes was construction of 96 apartment units, Red Hook Commons, done in collaboration with the Village and Town of Red Hook.
Mr. Akeley’s work has often taken him beyond land use planning issues and he has played a critical role in economic and job development in Dutchess County. In the early 1990’s, following the IBM’s major downsizing, County Executive Steinhaus expanded the role of the Department of Planning to include development in order to put a strategic focus on economic development and job creation in Dutchess County. The Dutchess County Legislature formally approved Steinhaus’ reorganization of the Planning Development and the expanded role of the Planning & Development Commissioner in 1994 with a change to the County Charter. As the Planning & Development Commissioner, Mr. Akeley has helped create the Water and Wastewater Authority and later, the planning and implementation of the Central Dutchess Water Transmission Pipeline. Together with County Executive Steinhaus, he worked to bring Dia:Beacon, the Rhinebeck Performing Arts Center, Kaatsbaan Dance Center, Dutchess Stadium as well as the Rivers and Estuaries Center to Dutchess County.
Under Akeley’s guidance, the Planning & Development department successfully applied for the County’s economic development zone (EDZ) designation, the first in New York State, to combine central city impact zones with job opportunities within community range. “More than $5 billion in economic activity has flowed through the Dutchess EDZ,” according to John MacEnroe, President of the Economic Development Corporation.
Reaching beyond his role in Planning & Development, Mr. Akeley worked with County Executive Steinhaus to craft the legislation to establish the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council and assisted County Executive Steinhaus in preparing a criminal justice plan, concentrating on alternatives to incarceration. He has also most recently served as Acting Commissioner of Solid Waste Management as well.
“It is impossible to quantify the positive impact Roger has had on our community,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “The work of the Planning & Development Department can define the landscape for future generations and Roger’s leadership and vision has left an indelible mark that our children and grandchildren will all benefit from. We cannot begin to thank Roger Akeley enough for his service and dedication, and all he has done for our community. His achievements and legacy will last through the century.”
“I believe the best days for the County and the Planning Department are yet to come. I have been blessed to lead a talented, experienced and committed Planning Department team who are creative, forward-thinking and active in our communities,” said Mr. Akeley. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work so closely with County Executive Steinhaus over the years. His far-reaching vision for Dutchess County allowed me the latitude to take on so many challenging and rewarding projects. I am proud of what we have been able to achieve.”
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Ronald Wozniak was appointed County Attorney in 2005 by County Executive Steinhaus. He originally began his tenure in Dutchess County Government in 1998 as Senior Assistant County Attorney. As Senior Assistant County Attorney, his primary focus was cases in Family Court, handling Juvenile Delinquent (JD) and PINS. “Illegal actions on the part of young people are often the result of implusive behavior. Our work interrupts that path of illegal behavior and hopefully resets the course for the young person to a law-abiding future,” said Mr. Wozniak.
Before joining County Government, Mr. Wozniak was in private practice. He also served as Town Attorney for Town of the Pawling from 1970 to 1973 and then for the Town of Dover from 1981 to 1986. He served for 23 years as Pawling Town Justice. His broad and diverse experience, particularly his municipal experience, has been critical to his success in the key role as County Attorney.
As County Attorney, Mr. Wozniak serves as the sole legal advisor for the County; prepares all necessary legal papers and instruments pertaining to County Government; prepares memoranda and opinions in regard to local laws, resolutions and legalizing acts when necessary support thereof, which fall within the Powers and Duties of the Counsel to the Legislature; and prosecutes or defend civil matters or proceedings involving the County and its units, including its officers.
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the work done for County Government by the County Attorney and how dependent all of us in County Government are on the skills of Ron Wozniak,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “We have relied on Ron’s wisdom and experience for many years. He has served the County with class and dignity and he will be greatly missed.”
Mr. Wozniak, a resident of Pawling, has no immediate plans for his retirement other than to enjoy more quality time with family and friends.
“I have been fortunate to work for an outstanding law firm… known as the Dutchess County Attorney’s Office. My colleagues, and our administrative staff as well, are all smart, hard working and experienced,” said Mr. Wozniak. “I admire, respect and appreciate the accomplishments we achieved together and I know the County is well served by a first class County Attorney team.”
“I have also been blessed to work with an experienced team of professionals who lead each of the County’s departments,” Mr. Wozniak continued. “It has been a privilege to work under the leadership of County Executive Steinhaus and I thank him for appointing me as County Attorney and providing the opportunity to work on a daily basis with so many talented people.”
Mr. Akeley will complete his county tenure on January 15, 2010 and Mr. Wozniak will retire officially on February 3rd, 2010.