John Lloyd introduced Greg Edwards, attorney, native of Panama and now Executive Director of the Gebbie Foundation,  Greg reflected on the job of County Executive.  It was, he said, most challenging, most rewarding, most satisfying and most frustrating.  On the positive side, he noted that every day he could be helpful to some person or organization. 
Looking back, he is most proud of the group that he assembled to manage the operations for the County.  Also high on his list of accomplishments is the fact that taxes to the County in 2013 were less than the taxes paid in 2006.  Costs were reduced by cutting administrative managers by 20%.  All told, 100 jobs were cut.  This was carried out by applying business principles to government.   Another accomplishment that improved the budget position was capturing waste gas from land fill, which nets the County $5 million.
Mr. Edwards feels the elections have shown how the County electorate speaks and moves the County.  The recent sale of the County Home is an example.  This brought him to the discussion of consolidation.  Any and all consolidation can take place using the same model as used with the County home:  identify the champions to lead the charge and support them.  As aother example that would make sense, he referenced consolidating diesel shops for municipal vehicles.  There are 18 shops within 9 miles of each other.
As we heard last week from Deke Kathman, we are beyond the tipping in need of consolidation for schools-now that they are being forced to consolidate for sports.  The only school district in the County that merged—just won the girls’ state basketball championship.  This should encourage others to consolidate. 
Greg concluded on a very positive note. We have a representative democracy and it is working in Chautauqua County.  We are fortunate that we still have people willing to volunteer and lead.  We have media that wants the facts, we have quality people as representatives, and voters who are engaged. 
In answer to questions, Mr. Edwards stated that the police departments should be consolidated to a county wide force-that the union needs to agree to it.  Reflecting on his new position, he noted that the Gebbie Foundation plans to continue to work with the other 11 foundations.  $10,000,000 a year is being invested in the area by the foundations.  Gebbie has invested $40,000,000 in Jamestown the last 10 years.  The Center of Comedy is projected to have a $20,000,000 economic impact a year s
hould it come about.  A final question was raised, “Will counties ever consolidate?”  To this he responded that it is possible, but not likely. It would require the State to lead.  New York state has both models of local government – counties and town/village.  It is one of the reasons there is such a heavy tax burden.  It would take a revision of local governance at the State level to reduce the redundancies. 
Show above: Executive Director of the Gebbie Foundation, Mr. Greg Edwards, President Elect Todd Allen, and John Lloyd.