Mary Krause knows her appointment as Ontario County administrator last fall was a watershed moment.
She was also aware that she was sworn into office in the same courtroom in Canandaigua where the 1873 trial of Susan B. Anthony for illegal voting was held. Krause last year became the first female to hold the top executive position in the county.
And while she is honored and humbled to be the first woman in that role, Krause, 52, also believes there is much to learn from the male counterparts she follows.
“I did celebrate that important moment in time,” Krause says. “And I also have a great appreciation for the legacy established by every county administrator before me.”
The Ontario County administrator is appointed by the members of the board of supervisors to serve as the county’s CEO, overseeing a 2016 operating budget of $213 million. Ontario County has 775 full-time employees as well as 800 part-time and seasonal workers.
Krause succeeds John Garvey, another county human resource director turned county administrator, who retired.
She knew early on that a career in the public sector was one she wished to pursue.
Krause grew up in Liverpool, Onondaga County. She received a bachelor of science degree in industrial labor and relations from Cornell University in 1986.
She would continue her education, earning a master of arts degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1997.
Krause became interested in labor relations and the public sector after a guest lecturer from New York’s Public Employment Relations Board came to Cornell. She would end up working for the state agency as a mediator and later took a job with Madison County, a rural community east of Syracuse, where she worked in human resources.
She came to Ontario County in 2011, serving as the human resources director. Krause was named to her current position last October.
Among the county administrator’s duties is working with the financial management committee to develop an operating budget for all county departments and programs and Finger Lakes Community College.
“As diverse as human resources is, this position is all the more so,” Krause says of her role as county administrator.
Since the county administrator is also the chief negotiator for the county’s seven labor units, Krause is able to use her background as a mediator to help with the process.
A problem solver
Former Farmington Town Supervisor Theodore Fafinski, who served in county government some 16 years before retiring in May 2015, worked closely with Krause when she was director of human resources and he served on the county’s personnel committee.
Krause’s knowledge, especially when it comes to county government, is second to none, Fafinski says.
“She’s a problem solver, a negotiator, someone who can bring sides together and come to a common ground,” says Fafinski, who has seen Krause do just that first-hand. “She gets people to start talking and that’s a rare quality to have.”
Fafinski also was a citizen member of the county administrator search committee when Krause was a candidate.
“She’s proving to be an outstanding county administrator,” he says.
Canadice Town Supervisor Kristine Singer serves as chairman of the county’s personnel committee. She led the search for a new county administrator and was on the committee that recommended Krause for the human resources position as well.
Singer also calls Krause a friend. The two, along with a group of female county department heads, meet regularly for lunch.
Singer spoke of Krause’s expertise and ability to work with all types of people and bring them together to reach an agreement.
She describes Krause as calm and approachable.
“Mary is able to take an adversarial situation and get everyone on the same page,” Singer says.
Krause describes herself as an active listener and a person who leads by example.
“No one has all the answers,” she says. “The best outcome usually comes from the input of the (county) team and the reaction of our residents.”
What has helped shape Krause’s beliefs about the importance of county government and its role in helping its citizens is the Athenian Oath, a copy of which hangs in her office
The oath was recited by the citizens of Athens, Greece, over 2,000 years ago and is referenced by modern-day civic leaders as a timeless code of civic responsibility.
Also featured in her office in Canandaigua are family pictures, Cornell memorabilia and Norman Rockwell’s the Four Freedoms paintings, a set of four prints inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous “Four Freedoms” speech delivered to Congress in January 1941.
There is also a picture of Frances Perkins, a sociologist and workers-rights advocate who served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945.
Krause’s favorite part of the job is getting to interact with a variety of people. She is also proud of the county board of supervisors’ longstanding ability to get business done in a nonpartisan manner.
Ontario County government is big enough to have the resources to assist its roughly 109,000 residents, yet small enough to not be confined by bureaucratic procedures that can be found in larger government organizations, she says.
A constant challenge is continuing to find ways to cover the costs of unfunded state mandates, which can eat up more than 90 percent of the county’s annual budget, she notes. One area where there is a potential for cost savings is reducing the inmate population at the county jail through alternatives to incarceration.
Another more enjoyable challenge stems from being one of the few counties in the state that’s growing. To help keep that momentum, the county has been working on a five-year economic development strategic plan, she says. And in addition to attracting companies to Ontario County, leaders are looking at ways they can help existing businesses continue to thrive and grow.
Getting residents knowledgeable and involved in the county government process is also a priority, she says.
The county will roll out a free program in the spring that will encourage people to learn about different aspects of county government.
Krause expects the initiative, which will last several weeks, will draw newly elected officials, county employees and other residents interested in county government.
Succession planning is another issue for Krause, especially since more than 50 county employees are expected to retire in 2016.
Krause plans to unveil a revamped county mission and vision statement this fall.
“It’s a good time in the organization to re-establish our direction and reinvigorate our efforts and interests in county government,” she says.
Off the job
Krause lives in the town of Canandaigua and cares for her mother, who moved from Syracuse to live with Krause when Krause’s father died five years ago.
Family is a priority. A self-described “proud aunt” to her nieces and nephews, ages 9 to 16, she often travels to their home in Burnt Hills, Saratoga County, to watch the children in sporting events.
Krause enjoys golf, baseball and softball and is a Syracuse University basketball fan.
She also appreciates theater and folk/rock music, with her tastes ranging from Joan Baez and Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons.
An avid reader, Krause most enjoys nonfiction. She recently started a biography of the late Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who achieved the most wins of any coach in NCAA basketball history.
At work, Krause continues to find inspiration in her belief in county government’s ability to address the issues of the day.
“I believe in the positive impact of county government,” she says.
Title: Ontario County Administrator
Education: B.S. in industrial labor and relations, Cornell University, 1986; M.A. in public administration, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 1997
Residence: Town of Canandaigua
Hobbies: Golf, baseball and softball; reading; Syracuse University basketball fan; enjoys theater and folk/rock music
Quote: “I believe in the positive impact of county government.”
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