O’Donnell has earned Water Authority post
Before Jack O’Donnell was appointed to the Erie County Water Authority, it suffered from a lack of direction. Employees suffered from a lack of morale. Managers and department heads were scrutinized, which made them second guess every decision affecting day-to-day operations.
The authority had a problem that can best be described by an old adage: “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” O’Donnell walked into an authority that had two expired labor agreements, which created tension and frustration between labor and management; management positions that duplicated assigned tasks; budget shortfalls; and uncompleted service area expansions. He faced an era of negative public opinion and negative press. Not to mention that as the new commissioner, he became part of an unpopular water rate hike that corrected the unaddressed issues and decisions of forgone commissioners. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
On day one, O’Donnell rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Since then, both labor agreements have been settled. As president of AFSCME Local 930, I will be the first to admit our contract could have been better. But he was instrumental in bringing both sides together, always keeping the rate payers’ interest in mind and never letting me forget that we work for the rate payers of Erie County, and we finally came to terms.
He has addressed the “too many chiefs” issue by streamlining management positions and restructuring management duties. Under his watch, we have expanded our service area and continue to do so. Employee morale has improved, and labor and management relationships continue to grow.
But there still is plenty more to do. I have been an employee of the Water Authority for over 20 years and I can honestly say this is the best team of commissioners I have ever seen appointed. I implore the Erie County Legislature to set politics aside and put the best interest of the water rate payers first by reappointing O’Donnell. He has earned it.
Daniel A. Rusin