William R. Steinhaus to retire from his position as Dutchess County Executive at the end of his term
STATEMENT BY DUTCHESS COUNTY EXECUTIVE WILLIAM R. STEINHAUS
Poughkeepsie… Some might say it was by chance, or some might say it was by design, but I was born on Election Day in 1949. My interest in government and politics though was born later during my teenage years.
As a student at Dutchess Community College in 1967, one of my first classes was a government class taught by Dr. Jack Lippman, who at the same time was the Chair of the county commission developing and authoring the Dutchess County Charter as the county prepared for its new executive form of government. Talk about getting in on the ground floor, and not even realizing how it would serve me in the future!
Shortly after, as a college student in the summer of 1970, I also got my first job with county government as a laborer, driving a tractor for the summer cutting grass along highway shoulders throughout the county. I was a Wappinger, southern Dutchess guy from one of thousands of IBM families, but I was able to see and get to know all the beautiful, rural areas of my county I didn’t know existed until then – from Pawling to Millerton to Tivoli.
I would not know for awhile how important an opportunity this was, or how much riding past dairy farms, orchards, and hay fields influenced me later in my public service career. Those early days helped lay the foundation for my development and creation of county policies like our program to save open space and preserve our treasured farmland…and in dotting our landscape with miles of walking and biking trails to connect people and our communities!
I quickly became a lifelong student of all types of government, with a passion for my home of Dutchess County. I met my wife Susie in college at Brockport State, and she came back with me to Dutchess along with our dream of starting our family and living our lives here through public service. Within a few years of my college graduation and after several years of active involvement at many levels of the political process (thanks to my parents Bob and Ruth), I landed in what I thought was my dream job as a staff assistant in the executive office of county government.
A few short years later in 1978 at the age of only 28, I was honored to be elected as Dutchess County Clerk and Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. I was re-elected three more times, serving four terms and 13 years in an elected public service position that definitely was another dream job.
Then on November 5, 1991 the electors of Dutchess County gave me the incredible high honor of being elected to my first term of what would be an unprecedented five terms, or 20 years, as this county government’s chief elected official. Without a doubt, this has been my ultimate dream job in county government!
This morning I have advised my senior staff and department heads that on December 31, 2011, I will walk out of the Dutchess County Office Building as the county’s sixth County Executive for the final time. I plan to retire from my position as Dutchess County Executive at the end of my term.
I will be leaving a familiar and comfortable place that I love, but I will leave with an extraordinary sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and sincere humility in knowing that there are always more challenges and more to do. I will leave with a special appreciation and fondness for my staff, both current and former, without whom this job would have been so much harder and not nearly as much fun!
Closing this chapter of my professional life will be both poignant and difficult, yet I will look forward to new endeavors and opportunities that will keep me busy and involved in community and public service.
All of us know there is a right time to move on; my family and I know now is that time for us.
My enduring love and gratitude to my wife Susie, our children Julie and Matthew, our daughter-in-law Casey along with their children, my grandsons Blaine and Reese, my parents, my sisters and their families for supporting me and understanding that this has been more than a job for me; they have allowed me to live my passion and my dream.
For the next 10 months, I will still have the amazing privilege to hold the office of Dutchess County Executive. I will continue to perform the duties and responsibilities of this esteemed position with the sense of purpose necessary and the principled set of standards in which I believe and uphold. When faced with the many decisions still to be made in the coming months, I will continue to follow the guidance I receive daily from residents of our community, both those in leadership roles and those who simply want to let me know what’s important to them and their families.
I thank you all for the incredible privilege I have had in serving you and our community.
William Robert Steinhaus
March 3, 2011
William R. Steinhaus
Q. What was your biggest challenge?
A. Leading the county after the IBM downsizing and developing an economic development and jobs creation strategy to lift our community from the fear and anxiety felt by families and businesses throughout the county.
Q. What are your greatest achievements?
A. - Leading the county’s economic rebound after the IBM downsizing in 1993.
- Our consistent and sound approach to maintaining financial stability in county government.
- Building the Harlem Valley and the Dutchess Rail Trails.
- The Greenway and Open Space Farmland Protection programs.
Q. What makes you most proud?
A. - The longevity of my service to the community as its Chief Elected Official for 5 terms, or 20 years; as well as 4 terms, or 13 years serving as elected County Clerk.
- Dutchess County government has established itself as a statewide model for many different programs and services.
Q. What would make your Dad most proud?
A. - That my principles and ethics have not wavered over my long career.
- My focus on planning and community development through the Greenway Program commitment and stewardship.
Q. What would make your Mom most proud?
A. The many women I have appointed to significant, high level management and leadership roles in county government and the number of women I rely on as close advisors.
Q. What moment do you view as your greatest honor?
A. Welcoming the members of the 727th Military Detachment of the New York National Guard at the Armory upon their return from Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was overcome with pride and emotion when they presented me with the Dutchess County flag I had given them when they deployed and which they subsequently flew over their base, Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.
Q. What are some of your most solemn, emotional and/or moving experiences?
A. - On September 11, 2001 in the executive office with my Emergency Response Coordinator making necessary plans as we watched TV while the Twin Towers fell.
- In October 2001, visiting the World Trade Center site of 9/11 with Gov. Pataki.
- The Hyde Park funeral of a local firefighter killed on 9/11.
- Honoring local fallen war heroes upon their return to Dutchess County.
- The funeral service attended by thousands for Det. John Falcone just last week.
- Welcoming our troops home from deployment.
- Pinning medals on war veterans at our annual veteran ceremonies.
Q. What impresses you everyday?
A. Our skilled, dedicated and passionate rank and file county employees.
Q. What are you most appreciative of?
A. My extraordinarily talented, dedicated and loyal senior staff.
Q. What do you have the greatest respect for?
A. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS and first responders who put their lives on the line everyday to keep our families and communities safe.
Q. What puts a smile on your face?
A. - Seeing thousands of the two million visiting fans enjoying Dutchess Stadium.
- Watching 15,000 people singing and dancing at a Bowdoin Park concert.
- Being a visiting reader at “reading days” in local elementary schools.
Q. What is your “favorite” part of the job?
A. I love being out at community events, luncheons and dinners, mixing with seniors, youth, business owners and others and hearing from them on the important issues facing their families and businesses.
Q. What has been the most fun?
A. On a day to day basis, my staff and I are serious about what we do and we work hard, but we insist on having fun and we do!
Q. What is the most personally gratifying?
A. The families and children I see and talk with while on the Dutchess Rail Trail - and the numbers are growing all the time!
Q. What is the biggest change you have lived through as an elected official?
A. - Technology, the Internet, and Social Media - all of which have helped us bring public safety improvements, staff efficiencies, office productivity (use of emails, etc.), public access and overall transparencies to county government.
- The changing media industry.
Q. What might be one of your least known accomplishments?
A. The leadership role we played in the overall development and funding of the Community Boathouse Rowing Center on the Hudson River that is now enjoyed by thousands of local and distant rowing competitors and their fans.
Q. What has been your biggest frustration?
A. Just in case you haven’t heard me say this before…Albany dysfunction and state mandates! In my 35 plus years in county government, they have just continued to get worse.
Q. What is an overall disappointment?
A. The often natural resistance between the legislative and executive branch where legislators default to an oppositional position of the executive because they think they should, not based on facts. This happens everywhere on all levels of government regardless of party affiliation or majority/minority control. The concern some county legislators have that they will be viewed as executive “rubber stamps” is out of sync with the reality.
Q. What is least understood about being County Executive?
A. The responsibilities and demands of the position are 24/7, 365 days a year. Once that oath is given, you can never escape being the executive, professionally or personally, whether on a weekend or a holiday, and there is never a vacation from it. The work and responsibilities are always in your mind and on your shoulders morning, noon, or night, including in the middle of the night!
Q. What are common, yet unrealistic expectations from the public?
A. - That one person - the Executive - can be everywhere, and attend every event.
- That one person can answer each call, email, or letter, and meet with everyone personally.
- That elected officials should always “get along” and agree.
Q. What is the most demanding of your annual work cycle?
A. - The January preparation of the State of the County address.
- The October/November County Budget cycle.
Q. What were your most special political moments?
A. - The 1978 GOP convention the instant I knew I won the nomination as the Republican candidate to run on the Republican ticket for Dutchess County Clerk.
- On November 5, 1991 when my wife Susie and I walked into Republican Election Headquarters election night at the Hellenic Center knowing I was just elected Dutchess County Executive.
Q. What do you believe is the secret to your political success?
A. - Anticipating and understanding “what’s next”.
- Knowing who to choose as friends and advisors - I have been blessed with great friends, advisors and supporters.
- Also knowing who to stay away from and who not to take advice from.
Q. What is your advice to a young person going into elected public service?
A. - Do not let personal political ambition cloud your decision-making.
- Maintain your principles and values.
- Choose your friends, advisors and associates carefully.
Q. What will you remember the most?
A. - Standing with my Dad at the Warbirds event I organized at the Dutchess County Airport next to the vintage sea plane model he flew as a WW II Navy pilot.
- Meeting and greeting President H.W. Bush at Stewart Airport with my family, and years later being presented the national local elected official’s award for our Cancer Control program by President Bush and his wife Barbara in Texas.
- Seeing President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the FDR Library.
Q. What will you miss the most?
A. - Helping individual residents with their particular problems.
- The people I work with everyday.
- The daily mental challenge of the job.
Q. What is something people may not know about you?
A. - I always wanted to be a sportscaster.
- I was a high school wrestling referee for 10 years, officiating at county, sectional and state championships, as well as the Empire Games and an Olympic Trials.
Q. What do you view as your legacy?
A. - My strong minded, consistent and principled approach to governance and leadership - not caving in to the political winds of the moment.
- The long term, lasting quality of life issues I pursued for the families in our community that I always put first.
Q. Is there anything you’d do differently?
A. Lots probably. I have always enjoyed attending the varied community gatherings, large or small, and chatting with people individually. But I would definitely try to get away from the desk even more, and spend even more one on one time with folks.
Q. What are some important benchmarks of your career?
A. - Only three other elected County Executives in New York State history have served for 20 years.
- Longest serving executive in Dutchess County history.
- Youngest to be elected as Dutchess County Executive.
- Proudly served as Pres. of the NY Association of Counties Board of Directors; President of NYS Association of County Executives; and for many years have represented all NY counties on the Nat’l Association of Counties Board of Directors.
Q. What’s one “cool” thing you got to do as County Executive?
A. Throw out the first pitch Opening Day at Renegades games at Dutchess Stadium.
Q. What’s an unexpected benefit of the position?
A. My grandsons think all the county highway trucks and tractors belong to Grampy!
Q. Would you do it all over again?
A. You bet!
Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus
Economic Development Projects, Recruitments, and Strategies:
Creating and leading TEAM Dutchess, a diverse, multi-dimensional economic & jobs development effort
DIA Museum: Beacon
Beacon Institute - Rivers and Estuary Center
GAP Distribution Center in Fishkill
IBM 300mm Chip Fab in East Fishkill
Associated Aircraft (AAG) at Dutchess Airport, Wappinger
Kaatsbaan Dance Center in Tivoli
Mechtronics in Beacon
Life Medical Technologies in East Fishkill
Created Tourism Industry Initiative
Economic Development Forums, promoted and facilitated three events
Economic Development Zone Program, spearheaded the program that created billions of dollars in business investment
Together with Industrial Development Agency (IDA), developed creative funding stream of millions of non-tax dollars to financially support the development of community projects and organizations.
Community Development Projects:
Community Boathouse Rowing Center, organizational development and funding sources
Family Partnership Center, initial and match funding
Waryas Park River Front Bulkhead and Dock at City of Poughkeepsie, funding
Community Development Block Grant and HOME Programs:
The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, a community theatre
Red Hook Commons, a cleaned up Brownfields site developed into senior housing
Beacon and Poughkeepsie Main Street redevelopment
Poughkeepsie Housing Initiatives: Conklin St., Garden St., Harlow Row, Pendell Commons, Penrose/Duvernay 400 Block Project, 300 and 500 block Main Street improvements in Poughkeepsie
Arlington Business District improvements
Planning and Development:
Greenway, Greenway Compact, Greenway “Connections” and Greenway Trails Programs
Open Space and Farmland Preservation Program
Smart Growth Housing Task Force
Hyde Park Crossroads Project
Red Hook, Town and Village Pedestrian Friendly Improvement Project
Community Center Development Plans - LaGrange, Hopewell, and Beekman
Pawling Village Green Project
East Fishkill Affordable Housing Standards Development
Center Medians on Route 9, Poughkeepsie - Plan and funding for planting to make a “Green” way corridor.
Poughkeepsie Train Station Interior and Exterior Improvements
Train Station Improvements at Beacon, New Hamburg, Dover, Pawling & Wassaic
First Time Home Buyers Program
Water and Wastewater Authority (WWA), support for new projects and systems acquisitions
Central Dutchess Utility Corridor Waterline, concept, funding, implementation
Reagan’s Mills Bridge in Dover, business and job retention for Dover factory
County Government Facilities and Buildings: New Construction & Rehabilitations:
Family Court Building: new courthouse on Market St., Poughkeepsie
Historic Annex District Attorney Office: renovation and adaptive reuse at Main St., Poughkeepsie
Old City Hall/Jurors: preservation and rehabilitation
County Courthouse: renovation and preservation improvements
New Highway Engineering Building at Rt. 44 County Highway Department Complex
Harlem Valley Rail Trail: design and development from Millerton to Wassaic
Dutchess Rail Trail: design and development from City of Poughkeepsie to Hopewell Junction
Bowdoin Park: constructed new Amphitheater
Bowdoin Park: rehabilitation and re-opening of Mapleknoll Lodge and Cabins
Bowdoin and Wilcox Parks: new Pavilions
Historic Ellesdie Chapel: preserved and relocated to Bowdoin Park
Quiet Cove Park: site acquisition, design, development, opening and rehab of old Navy Boathouse
Eastern Dutchess Government Center: new county services center in Millbrook
911 Center: creation and construction
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): creation and construction
Fire Training Facilities: new facilities and upgrades
DCC: funding support for new campus buildings and building upgrades, Main Campus & DCC South
County Airport: new hangers, runway rehabilitation, safety improvements
Jail Addition: increased inmate capacity
Dutchess County Government Goes Green:
Geothermal alternative energy heating and cooling systems, installed at four county facilities
Hybrid Vehicle additions to county fleet of cars and buses
County Buildings, energy saving HVAC system retrofits and upgrades
County Highway Plow Fleet, retrofits to spread less salt on roads
Green Cleaning Products for county buildings
Dutchess County Government Programs and Services – Initiatives and Strategies
911 Communications and Emergency Response System
Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Emergency Preparedness
National Incident Management System (NIMS)
Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan
Mutual Aid Plan
Regional Mass Fatality Management Plan
Simulcast Radio Dispatch System for county wide emergency communications
Criminal Justice Council, national model for comprehensive strategic approach to criminal justice system
Alternatives to Incarceration ( ATI ), Probation and Community Corrections
Domestic Violence Programs, comprehensive services including DART – Domestic Abuse Response Team
Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT)
Online Sex Offender Registry
Veterans Appreciation, Outreach and Annual Medal Ceremony
Discount Prescription Drug Program for residents
Medical Examiner, developed comprehensive restructuring
Youth Awards Annual Luncheon Program
OFA Senior Picnic Program
National Award Winning Senior Exercise Program and Brain Games Program
Dutchess “Connects”, a single point of entry program for seniors in Aging Services
Health Initiatives: Comprehensive Cancer Control; Tobacco Use Prevention; HEART Safe Program; CPR Training; Childhood Obesity Program; Flu Clinics; Healthy Families Initiative; Lyme Tick Programs; Ryan White HIV/Aids Programs; Safe Drinking Water Programs
Community Solutions to Transportation or “Wheels to Work” Program
Chamber of Commerce Jobs Mentoring Programs
Work Training and Placement Program at Department of Social Services
Front End Detection Cost Savings Program at Department of Social Services
DutchessNY.gov, the county’s national award winning website
GIS; ParcelAccess; County Records Search
Financial Management System
Integrated Public Safety System
County Government Reform Plan: Consolidations, Realignments and Restructuring:
Eliminated Department of Aviation and merged into Public Works
Eliminated Parks Department and merged into Public Works
Realigned Auto Center into Central Services from Public Works
Merged Civil Defense and Fire Coordinator Services into Emergency Response
Restructured the Department of Mental Hygiene
Planning mission expanded to become Planning and Development with economic development emphasis
Probation became Probation and Community Corrections in expanded criminal justice system role
Real Property Tax Department became division in Finance Department
Risk Management Department became division of Human Resources
Weights and Measures consolidated with Department of Health
Youth Bureau, Office for the Aging, and Veterans Agency merged as separate divisions into one department of Services for Aging, Veterans and Youth (SAVY)
Hudson Valley Municipal Purchasing Group and BidNet e-procurement programs
Hurricane Andrew, Florida: Dutchess response collected 67 tons of food and supplies
Beekman/ County Joint Salt/Sand Shed
Development of a Strong Volunteer Network working with the County
County Partnerships with Community Organizations and Not-for-Profits
Pending Community Projects of Note:
Silo Ridge Resort in Amenia
Knolls at Dover
Carvel Property Development in Pine Plains
Cricket Valley Energy Development Project in Dover
Hudson Baylor in Beacon
Hyatt Place in Hyde Park
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