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Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney to step down, become COO at SUNY ESF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney on Monday announced that she plans to step down to become COO at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

 “For the last eleven years, it has been my honor and pleasure to serve as Onondaga County Executive. Today, I’m here to announce that I intend to continue serving our Central New York community in a different capacity. I’ve accepted a job as chief operating officer at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and I will also serve as a special assistant to SUNY administration on matters relating to SUNY Upstate,” Mahoney said in a statement.

Moving forward, the Onondaga County Legislature can appoint Mahoney’s successor, she noted. If it doesn’t, then Onondaga County Deputy County Executive William Fisher would finish the term.

Ryan McMahon, the current chairman of the legislature, on Monday announced he was seeking the position.

Reason for leaving

SUNY is the region’s largest employer and is “undergoing transition,” Mahoney noted in her statement.

“Our local economy is tremendously impacted by SUNY and I look forward to working with [SUNY] Chancellor Kristina Johnson and her staff and Dr. David Amberg and his team at ESF to help maximize the benefit of these institutions,” she added.

Amberg is serving as the ESF’s interim president after former president Quentin Wheeler resigned from the post June 30.

Mahoney contends she’s leaving Onondaga County “in a good position.”

“… our finances are strong, our infrastructure is in good working order, Onondaga Lake is thriving and we have the best workforce you will find anywhere,” Mahoney added in her statement.

The Onondaga County Legislature is currently considering Mahoney’s latest budget proposal “and it is my intention to fulfill my duties by staying in office until after the budget is passed in October.

Elected in November 2007, Mahoney is the first woman to serve as Onondaga County Executive, according to her biography on the website of Onondaga County. In November 2015, Mahoney was elected to her third term as county executive.

McMahon seeks appointment

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon told reporters in a noon-hour news conference that he will seek his colleagues’ approval to fill the county executive’s role once Mahoney steps down.

McMahon called the opening a “unique opportunity.”

“I think for me, with my experiences … being in city government, county government, and the private sector, understanding the legislative process … it’s been a position that I think many of my colleagues will tell you I’ve always had interest in,” McMahon said in speaking with reporters in the Onondaga County Legislature chamber.

Several legislators stood behind McMahon as he spoke Monday afternoon.

“I first learned in the past 24 hours that something may be happening and I received notice this morning, probably about the same time [local media] did,” McMahon said.

Contact Reinhardt at


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