Wilkes-Barre Hires New City Administrator
WILKES-BARRE — Mayor Tony George has hired a former insurance agency vice president and partner as his new city administrator.
Richard Gazenski, who served as vice president of J.W. Hoban & Associates from 1994 to 2015 and currently serves as a consulting agent for the Wilkes-Barre company, spent Monday getting acquainted with city hall and training with outgoing administrator Ted Wampole.
Gazenski’s annual salary will be the same as Wampole’s — $75,000. Wampole will continue training Gazenski through his last day on the job, Dec. 7. Wampole will begin a new position as executive director of the Luzerne County Convention and Tourism Bureau on Dec. 10.
George chose Gazenski “based upon his successful business background, from which he has honed his negotiation, employee management, business growth, and fiscal responsibility skills,” according to a news release from the mayor’s office announcing the appointment late Monday afternoon.
“I’m honored, and I’ll do whatever I can to help the administration,” Gazenski, 68, said in an interview. “I’ve always loved to be active in the city, but I never expected the mayor to choose me. It was a complete surprise.”
Gazenski, who has over 40 years of experience in the insurance industry, sold his share in the company upon retiring in 2015, but still maintains his insurance license as a producer and a consultant. He and his business partner built a 100-year-old business into a successful multi-million-dollar insurance firm, according to the news release.
“While many businesses chose to leave the city, we stayed. This decision demonstrated the success that can be achieved through dedication and commitment to our neighbors and our city,” Gazenski said in the news release.
The statement echoes Gazenski’s sentiments when asked about his priorities as administrator.
“There are so many things we need to look at. But first, we need to look at our neighborhoods. Also, rental properties and inspections. We have tenants moving in and out. And businesses — it’s so important to get new businesses (downtown) but I would like to see new businesses in the outlying areas as well,” he said.
With three city unions currently in contract negotiations, Gazenski said “We really need to take care of our employees. They’re very important to us. I believe it’s a give-and-take. It’s all in the approach. They’ll help us and we’ll help them.”
And with multi-million-dollar budget deficits projected in future years, Gazenski said his approach to city finances is “to be determined. I really need to look at this a lot longer and harder to determine which way we go.”
Asked why he would come out of retirement to accept the challenges associated with the job, Gazenski said he’s “always had an interest in the city as long as I can remember. … I’d like to share some ideas I’ve had and help as much as I could.”
After the county announced on Nov. 8 that Wampole would be leaving the city administration to head the tourism agency, George had said Tim Henry, who currently holds dual roles of city attorney and deputy city administrator, would handle the brunt of Wampole’s responsibilities after he leaves.
But Wampole said that further discussions led the mayor to consider another hire because “it would be too much for someone to be administrator and city attorney.” He said he and Henry interviewed Gazenski and recommended his hire to the mayor.
“I’ve known him a long time. We thought he would be the perfect fit,” Wampole said.
Henry, whose earns $58,706 as city attorney and $18,794 as deputy administrator, agreed that “it would have been a lot of work for me to take on the additional position. I’m not upset at all. … I think he’ll do a great job and I look forward to working with him.”
Gazenski served as part of George’s transition team after George took office in January 2016 and has volunteered as a member of the city’s insurance committee, which was organized to review insurance proposals for proper coverages. He will resign his current memberships on the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority board of directors and the city Planning Commission, Wampole said.
Gazenski also previously served as a state-certified instructor for insurance licensing and continuing education, president of NEPA Erie Insurance Association, president of the South Wilkes-Barre Rotary and member of the Wilkes-Barre Redistricting Committee.
Gazenski is current chairman of the 6th District Democratic Committee and organizer and member of the District A Fund, a volunteer community organization created to improve existing municipal and community facilities and improve the safety and security of residents.
He and his wife, Patricia, have been married 33 years and reside in Wilkes-Barre. The couple has three children, eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
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