LAKE PLACID - Dede Scozzafava said Wednesday that state officials want to foster a dialogue with local governments in the Adirondack Park and across the state on ways to improve their efficiency and share services.
The former North Country Assemblywoman, who lives in Gouverneur, was appointed in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be deputy secretary for local government at the Department of State. She was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the state Adirondack Park Agency's Local Government Day Conference, held at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid.
"My perspective from the local government unit in the Department of State is not to tell towns and villages what you need to do," Scozzafava told the crowd of elected officials and planners from across the Park. "It's to enter into a dialogue so we can communicate about how we, at all different levels of government, can be more effective and more efficient."
Former state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, now deputy secretary for local government at the Department of State and the department’s designee to the state Adirondack Park Agency board, speaks at Wednesday’s APA Local Government Conference in Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Scozzafava said the state is working to clean up its own house. She said the Spending and Government Efficiency commission appointed by Cuomo is "thoroughly reviewing" every state agency for redundancies, overlapping operations and unnecessary mandates. She said it's the first time in her 12 years in Albany that she's seen that level of inter-agency analysis.
Meanwhile, Scozzafava said the Department of State's Local Government Services unit is creating regional teams to work with towns and villages to find ways they can be more efficient. Those solutions can't be one-size-fits-all, she said.
"A lot of you are already sharing services," Scozzafava said. "You're doing what you can with not a lot of resources and coming up with ideas. We understand the challenges you're facing in the Adirondack Park. We understand the strengths of this area and we want to hear what we can do to try to be helpful."
Scozzafava said the Department of State has $79 million in grant funding available this year for local government efficiency projects, an increase from last year's $4 million allocation.
Her appearance at Local Government Day comes just over a month after she took a seat as the Department of State designee on the APA board. She's been at the February and March agency meetings.
Asked what approach she'll bring to issues on the agency's agenda, Scozzafava said, "We're all in this together."
"We have to figure out how we can balance the resources we have with the needs we have," she said. "Yes, I come from local government, but I also have 20 years of private business experience, time in the Assembly and time in other entities. Sometimes we always look to be on opposite sides, and I think there are a lot of issues that we can be on the same side. It's like Mom always said: 'Sometimes you just have to listen a little more than you talk.'"
APA Chairman Curt Stiles said Scozzafava brings "a tremendous background and experience" to the agency.
"I can't think of a better person in terms of background to serve on the Park Agency board and represent the interests of local government in the North Country," he said.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.