Dan Hust | Democrat
Susan Jaffee to Take Over As Head of Economic Development
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO April 20, 2007 Livingston Manor farmer Susan Jaffe is about to become Sullivan County’s newest commissioner.
Owner and operator with husband Marc of Snowdance Farm near Grooville, Jaffe also serves the county as its director of agriculture, marketing and economic development.
And come April 26, she’s expected to be named commissioner of a brand new division: Community and Economic Development. This spinoff of part of the Division of Planning and Community Development is just one aspect of a large-scale revamping of government under Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau’s watch.
Pending approval from county legislators, current Planning Commissioner Bill Pammer will remain as head of the new Division of Planning and Environmental Management, and the General Services Division will be abolished.
Pammer and Jaffe will split the staff from the soon-to-be-defunct divisions and put them to work in their own new divisions, thus resulting in no loss of workers or increase in costs, explained Fanslau.
“Their roles will be strengthened and supplemented,” he said of Jaffe and Pammer.
Though only with county government since December, Jaffe has a wealth of experience in her chosen field. She put her dual-major bachelor’s degree from Colgate University (in urban anthropology and women’s economic development) and her master’s in public administration from New York University to work, first in New York City government and then with Andrew Cuomo’s not-for-profit, Help USA.
While with the city, Jaffe coordinated welfare-to-work, employment, education and community development programs in and around New York. After joining Help USA, she focused on creating low- to moderate-income housing with related support and business services for people who would otherwise be homeless.
Her legacy with Help USA, which has become a national model for successful community revitalization, is a proud one.
“You look at these communities 10 years later, and they’re thriving,” she said. “It was all business development tied to community development.”
And that’s why she’s thrilled to have a chance to do the same in Sullivan County.
“The bottom line for me is job creation,” she explained. “… And we want livable wages. I’m not looking to talk to [potential businesses] talking just about minimum wage.”
Jaffe, of course, is a business owner herself, as she and Marc have turned their 80 acres into a thriving chicken and beef farm. The duo, who met at Colgate, gave up hectic lives in midtown Manhattan in 2000 for the beauty and peace of the Manor, where they are also raising daughter Taylor, 8, and son Teddy, 5.
In the process, Jaffe became Snowdance’s sales and marketing person (while Marc focused on working the farm) and found herself figuring out ways to spur economic development even before joining county government.
“This job gave me the opportunity to do what I was doing at my kitchen table,” she remarked with a smile.
And soon she’ll have even more of that opportunity. As commissioner of Community and Economic Development, Jaffe will oversee agricultural and non-agricultural development initiatives and work with the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency, the Sullivan County Visitors Association and Cornell Cooperative Extension to ensure county residents and businesses get needed services without wasteful duplication.
That part of the job she actually already does.
“When we all sit together at the table, businesspeople are like, ‘Wow, Sullivan County’s on the ball. We’re not getting the runaround!’” she related.
Jaffe’s also focused on bringing “Mom and Pop” stores back to area main streets, along with helping to create a long-sought slaughterhouse at Liberty’s coming agricultural industrial park.
“We’ll have a grantwriting function,” she added, as the county’s newly centralized grantwriters will be under her wing.
Jaffe will also oversee workforce development and youth services, and she will be responsible in her division for implementing Fanslau’s goal of more transparency and accountability both in county government and with the service providers.
“I’ll be working with all our partners and stakeholders,” she explained, “and getting a good handle on what is there.”
Most importantly for this native of Trinidad and Queens will be matching county residents and businesspeople with the resources they need because this is her home, too.
“This job allows me to utilize the county’s resources in a much more concentrated way,” she said. “I’m excited about reaching out to all of the county!”
Jaffe welcomes calls at 794-3000, ext. 3536.