Cayuga County Office Building

The Cayuga County Office Building in Auburn.

The Citizen file

Cayuga County's new administrator will be on the job by the end of the year, so members of the Legislature need to prepare themselves for a new way of doing business.

J. Justin Woods appears to be qualified and enthusiastic, so we have no reason to believe that he can't work out just fine. But as we've seen in the past, qualifications and enthusiasm go only so far.

In many ways, Woods is coming in after a year of disruption since former administrator Suzanne Sinclair left under unexplained circumstances with a check for $80,000 to settle "all existing, threatened and/or potential claims and disputes" between herself and the county.

The intervening months resulted in an interim management team that left some individual legislators unclear about how things were being organized and who was ultimately in charge of day-to-day business.

The search process that led to Woods being hired left people in the dark, as well, because everyone involved in the interviewing was ordered to not reveal anything about what they were up to.

Even the announcement of Woods' hiring was odd, having been made in the evening on Election Day, when the focus of the average taxpayer was elsewhere. Perhaps it was an attempt to gloss over Woods' agreed-upon $135,000 salary  — $40,000 more than Sinclair would have made had she stayed on the job through 2017.

Having said that, the important thing heading into 2018 will be for Woods, the Legislature and county department heads to work in the manner this system of governing is designed to.

During campaign season, many candidates for legislative seats talked about the importance of giving the next administrator the authority — on paper and in practice — of carrying out county policy. In the past, they said, it has been commonplace for department heads to bring their issues directly to legislators. That undermining of the chain of command needs to stop the day Woods moves into his new office.

The county has spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting to this point. The important thing now is for the Legislature to allow Woods to operate as the county's true chief executive.

What we hope to see from Woods is openness and accessibility to county employees and to the public, and a steady and effective style of management.

The administration — and the atmosphere — of Cayuga County's government are overdue for major upgrades. We hope that Woods is up to the task of tackling both.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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