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MANAGER HOPEFULS HAVE WNY ROOTS

Two Western New York natives with jobs elsewhere in the state are in the running for the new post of Niagara County manager.

Samuel F. Iraci Jr., a former deputy mayor of Buffalo now serving as Elmira city manager, and Scott A. Schrader, a Wyoming County native who's now Montgomery County administrator, are among the four finalists for the position.

The only candidate from Niagara County is John C. Merino of Lewiston, former executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Niagara Falls.

The fourth candidate, former Erie County Medical Center chief executive officer Sheila K. Kee, withdrew from consideration Tuesday and re-entered Wednesday, several legislators said.

The Legislature's five-member Administration Committee is scheduled to vote Monday on recommending a manager to the full Legislature for appointment Dec. 3 to a four-year term as full-time head of the county government.

Its chairman, Legislator Kyle R. Andrews, D-Wilson, said the committee likely also will recommend a salary for the manager Monday. He said it will be at or near $85,000 a year. Asked if that is negotiable, Andrews said, "I would say it would be more of a 'take it or leave it' situation."

Iraci was a top official in Buffalo City Hall during almost all of James D. Griffin's 16 years as mayor. From 1980 to 1986, he was the city's director of labor relations, interrupted by a brief move to Nevada in 1984.

Iraci served as deputy mayor from 1986 to 1993 and ended his Buffalo service with a few months as community development commissioner. He became Elmira city manager in May 1994.

Iraci said a desire to return to Western New York is one of the factors that led him to apply for the Niagara County post.

"I've always liked challenges," he said. "I've been impressed with the legislators I've talked to. I think they have a genuine interest in changing the way their organization has been performing."

Schrader has been administrator of Montgomery County, west of Albany, since 1999. He was deputy administrator of Jefferson County from 1995 to 1999.

He was born in Wyoming County and graduated from Attica High School before going to college and starting his public administration career in Florida.

"Niagara County offers some additional challenges. It's a larger county. It provides for a greater opportunity," he said.

Merino declined to say why he sought the manager post. He worked with Neighborhood Housing Services for 20 years.

During the last two years, he was CEO of the Western New York chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He is now an adjunct instructor in politics and government at Niagara University.

Kee was out of town Thursday. She stepped down Oct. 31 after three years in charge of ECMC. She was formerly the hospital's chief operating officer for three years and before that was Erie County budget director.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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