President’s Speech

President Neary

Good Afternoon.

Thank you to the membership and my fellow Society Board members, including the four incredible presidents that I have had the pleasure to work with and serve under during my progression through the organizational steps, Mary Ann Henderson, Michale Genito, Marianne Lobaccaro and Lisa Neary. I am looking forward to serving you all as your next President. I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically, thank Lisa Neary, for her outstanding leadership as president this past year. Her tireless efforts and attention to detail (especially this week) have culminated in bringing this association to new heights. Under her direction, the Society relaunched a membership newsletter; Lisa also created a board packet to help acclimate and ease the anxiety of the new board members and she has been so helpful to me. For the past two years she has documented the duties and responsibilities of the first vice president and president which has and will continue to serve for me, a roadmap that I will utilize during my tenure as president. Thank you, Lisa, for all you have done, it is an honor to follow your leadership. But ultimately, as members you’ll all agree, it’s not about “this” president or “that” board of director, it’s about the Society; it is the 350+ members, together that have the ability to effect meaningful change, inspire others, mentor colleagues and to leave a legacy for all future generations to come.

1991……….I dare say that there a few of you out there in the membership weren’t even born yet. 1991………..Thirty-two years ago I attended my first NYCOM fall training school in Ellenville, NY at the Nevele.

I can assure you that back then I never imagined that I would someday serve as the next president of the Society. Regrettably, back then I knew nothing about this great association other than that’s where I sent my annual dues check into in September.

Back then I was lucky in a sense, I was lucky that at my first NYCOM fall training school, I was able to attend and interact with my own little personal network of municipal finance officers and clerks. In 1991, I had Kathi Rosselle from the City of Sherrill, Grace Peretta and Joan Cukierski of the City of Oneida, Paul Kogut of the Village of Hamilton and Chuck Rankin of the Village of Groton who mentored and help guide me through the early learning curve that would ultimately turn into a 32-year career. I even had the pleasure of meeting the then Director of Intergovernmental Finance for NYCOM, Peter Baynes.
Fast forward to 2019 I felt like I had come back around full circle, just like the New York Yankee Hall of Fame catcher, Yogi Berra once said, this was like “déjà vu all over again”. It really was, in 2019, I received a call from Robin Mitchell, from the Village of Camden (my own high school alma mater incidentally), and she asked if I would have any interest in becoming a director for the NYSSMFO. I considered her request for a few days and graciously accepted what would be a way to serve this great association. The association that I now realized was so much more than just a recipient of my $40 annual dues check in September. I considered myself fortunate that after having served the City of Sherrill for the last three decades, I would have an opportunity to share the knowledge and experiences that I had gained. Being involved with this association has allowed me to foster new peer relationships and contacts that I will someday pass along to my successor in the City of Sherrill. When I accepted the opportunity to join the NYSSMFO board I quickly realized that my new “posse” was my old “posse”. The names had changed, but coincidently a lot of the municipals remained the same. There was now Mary Ann Henderson (our former president and now advisor) from the Village of Hamilton, Nancy Niswender (now our second vice president) from the Village Groton and Chuck Rankin (then a Board Advisor), from the Village of Groton and of course Peter Baynes recently retired Executive Director of NYCOM and now Special Advisor to the Executive Director (well, I guess those last two names didn’t really change). As I said, it truly was “déjà vu all over again.”

Fast forward to today a very, very short four years later, I am honored to be leading this phenomenal association as it’s 68th president. I hope and strive to build upon what this organization had fostered and developed over the years in the strong foundation of so many programs and initiatives such as the Thelma Pelch Advancement Award, the Credentialed Municipal Finance Officers program and the mentoring program just to name a few.

Thank you all once again and I look forward to serving the Society next year. I am sure it will be a whirlwind year and before I know it, I will have the honor of passing the torch to Kristy O’Shaughnessy!!

As I mentioned, we, as a board, have been through a lot of change…upheaval seems like a dramatic way to put it but it has felt like that at times. We’ve had 3 changes in our secretary/treasurer, we’ve had board members and advisors retire (I think 5 of those), we’ve had board members change jobs to non-municipal positions (3) but all has made our group stronger. Committee procedures, fall training school procedures, getting a better understanding of the underlying workings of the society, and delegating to and empowering committees and even reaching out to members to help has been pretty much something that we’ve become quite familiar with and adept at doing. We are stronger as a result. More cohesive and I find it’s made us a closer knit group. I look at myself standing here and wonder how the heck this ever happened. When Chuck Rankin asked me to join the board back when Meg Hungerford was taking the position of President in (in 2018), (by the way Meg and I spoke a week or so ago and asked me to say hi to everyone), anyway, it’s sort of a joke…I almost thought it must have been some sort of initiation…, I had no idea that joining put me on a trajectory of becoming the president in 6- 7 years. And it never did come to my attention or occur to me until the END of Jennifer Kraft’s reign as president (and that was in 2020). So it’s been a bit of a joke that we all laugh about time and again.

Every president seems to have their own personal goals – what they want to see come to fruition during their year. Having said all of that, one of my goals for the upcoming year is to develop a Board Packet or handbook, if you will. Something to give to people who are interested in joining us along with a welcome packet for those who already have, so that everyone understands what the expectations are or what opportunities may come your way when joining us. I think it’s a good way of making people feel welcome.

In addition, Mary Ann Henderson started in motion creating a more structured environment for our committees to operate under; an environment of being empowered. Many have already created procedures to allow for more cohesive transfer to new committee members. I will work towards continuing that and getting any committees that haven’t already done so, on board. This only allows for a smoother transition from year to year. I’d also like to see that with the secretary/treasurer position but with Chrissy being brand new, we might give her some time to acclimate and get her feet on the ground. By the way everyone, please meet Chrissy Kiernan from the Village of Westbury who is our new Secretary/Treasurer. Thank you Chrissy, for taking on this task.

Also, Marianne Lobaccarro, during her reign, has worked on revamping the Society’s mentorship program. This is a more than a one year endeavor and is quite substantial in nature. So one of my goals is to support that initiative and help continue the forward momentum by supporting that program. That’s the main reason why we’re here after all – to support one another and be of service to others. Someone once said “we are finance officers helping finance officers”. That made me smile and proud.

So everyone here, please look to this Board as members of your network and should you ever need assistance, reach out to the members, take advantage of our mentoring program, let us know if there is a topic you are in need of training on. And if you find yourself wanting to become a little more involved, to grow personally and professionally; to be part of this supportive extended family of finance officers…we look for new board members every year. I personally feel there is no better way to get to know people.

In closing, I’d like to thank Marianne Lobaccaro for her work as President this past year. Thank you for the wonderful job you have done. If there was anyone I had to follow, Marianne was not one of them. With Marianne’s un-ending energy, she has left behind HUMONGOUS shoes to fill. I can only hope to do it justice but I am grateful for the opportunity. Thank you all, again, for your participation today and I look forward to working with you all this year. And now, door prizes!