MAYVILLE - The two candidates in the county executive race are both looking at the best ways to increase productivity in the county.
Fredonia businessman Ron Johnson, the Democratic- and Independence-endorsed candidate for county executive, recently attended the Dunkirk Democratic Committee picnic, where he said he is committed to partnering with labor to maximize employee effectiveness, and to raise customer service to new levels of excellence. According to Johnson, Chautauqua County has been on the wrong path for the last seven years.
"Our county has over 7,000 fewer jobs than it did seven years ago," Johnson said. "We have an underlying current of distrust between the current administration and county workers. There has been nothing but discord between labor and this administration, which has resulted in unsuccessful contract talks with the county's largest labor organization. We must change the culture in county government by regaining the trust of workers and taxpayers. These stakeholders need to know that the county is headed in the right direction and they deserve better than what has been dished up by the current administration."
Johnson called out Republican candidate Vince Horrigan, stating that if his opponent is elected, the county will see the same type of government it has been seeing under current County Executive Greg Edwards' watch.
"County employees and county taxpayers want a leader who will get the county moving again," Johnson said. "This means working with the unions to negotiate fair and reasonable contracts and to get both union and management employees to work closely to solve the challenges before us."
Johnson pointed out that his business experience is a positive in helping with his promises.
"When you elect me as your next county executive, I immediately will start working to end the labor strife and find a way to partner with our unions so we can focus on what is needed most in this county - living wage jobs," Johnson said. "We need development sites that are ready for construction to begin or sites that have been renovated and are ready for re-use. My expertise as a private business owner can help us make a case for new business development in Chautauqua County."
Horrigan called Johnson's claims "empty."
"Through my years of work with the United Way's of Northern and Southern Chautauqua County as well as other organizations that I am involved in, I have worked closely with organized labor in both listening to the concerns and needs of their members as well as supporting the programs and services which benefit all of our Chautauqua County citizens," Horrigan said. "My record and commitment is one which I am proud of."
Horrigan cited his concept of "lean government," which he has discussed in the past. Under his concept of lean government, he said he will engage employees at every level to find the best ways to increase productivity and better deliver services at lower costs.
"Any suggestion, for some reason, that I'm anti-union, is absolutely baseless. I am pro-workforce," Horrigan said. "As a matter of fact, one of my agendas here is this employability coalition, where we are going to increase and look at job training across the board to make sure that our workforce is the best qualified and has the skills necessary for the jobs that are ahead of us. In the next five years, over 3,400 jobs will become open to county citizens through the retirement and attrition. We've got to be sure that our workforce is ready for those jobs."
"Trying to divide, or having an election campaign over pro-union or anti-union is not productive in any way," he added. "That is not what the issues are with our county, whether you are pro-union or anti-union. My record has always been pro-workforce. I don't consider those charges of any merit whatsoever."