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New chief of staff for New Windsor Westminster man named to newly created post to help mayor's 2000 goal


New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. named Westminster resident Ragen Cherney chief of staff yesterday, a newly created, full-time post that the mayor says is necessary to take the town into the 21st century.

"When I took office in 1993, the town, by my estimate, was entering the end of the 19th century," the mayor said. "It wasn't even in the 20th century. We managed to get along, but the town wasn't up to facing the pressures of infrastructure and development."

Hiring Cherney, who will begin his $25,000-a-year job Jan. 2, is a logical step in the mayor's six-year goal to get the town ready for the 21st century, Gullo said.

The town office is open only one night a week and for a brief time Saturday. When Cherney assumes his duties, he will be present every day and most Saturdays to "make calls and do what's needed" to assist residents.

"The hard thing will be change," Gullo said. "I'm used to doing everything. The challenge for me will be to learn to delegate. The challenge for the citizens will be to learn that they will not have to call council people at home anymore."

Council members, who had been given areas of oversight in the town, "will be reported to" by Cherney under the new arrangement "rather than reporting to me," Gullo said. Cherney will function as town manager, but to call him town manager or town administrator would require a revision of the town charter, Gullo said.

"The charter is like the Constitution. I didn't want to tamper with that," the mayor said.

What set the 33-year-old Cherney apart from the other two finalists, Gullo said, is that "he has the personality and drive to be consistent with what I want to accomplish," and has had the kind of experience Gullo believes is vital to the job.

Since 1995, Cherney had been working for the county as a fiscal specialist responsible for the $3.2 million expansion of the county detention center.

"I will still prepare the budget, but it will be nice to have someone who can do a fiscal spreadsheet look at it," Gullo said. "It will be a nice complement."

Gullo witnessed Cherney's technical skills with computers when the pair worked as members of the county's charter-writing commission last winter. "It's time to update" the town's computers, Gullo said. "Ragen will help with that."

The mayor also noted Cherney's work as a legislative assistant to Carroll County Republicans in the House of Delegates in 1984 and as chief aide to state Sen. Sharon Hornberger of Carroll County in 1989.

"We're going to need help from the state with our water and sewer [system] and he is very familiar with the workings of state government," Gullo said. "We can't survive out here without great relationships with state government."

The fact that Cherney is a lifelong Carroll resident who knows little about New Windsor is another plus, Gullo said.

"I wanted someone with an objective perspective," the mayor said. "He doesn't know anyone in town. He doesn't have any special allegiance or favoritism. He owes his allegiance to everyone. Half the town is new people. It's very important that government is evenhanded and fair in what it does."

Cherney said, "The mayor and the council are such a good group to work for and New Windsor is such a good town to work in -- not just a town, but a community, a family.

"I have worked in various levels of government, and municipal government is best because it is closest to the people," he said. "The mayor and the council have done an outstanding job here. They make the policy. The job of the staff is to make the train run on time. My job is to make government effective for the people who own it -- the citizens of New Windsor."

Pub Date: 12/09/98

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