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Poloncarz chooses 5 for top-level positions; Burstein is nominee to head Health Dept.

A departing Erie County legislator, a pediatrician at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and a chief accountant in the County Comptroller's Office have been chosen for top-level positions in Mark C. Poloncarz's administration.

Poloncarz, who will be sworn in as county executive Sunday, announced the names of five nominees Wednesday:

*Dr. Gale R. Burstein, commissioner of health.

*Robert W. Keating, director of budget and management.

*Daniel J. Neaverth Jr., commissioner of emergency services.

*Michael A. Siragusa, county attorney.

*Maria R. Whyte, commissioner of environment and planning.

Burstein, a pediatrician at Women & Children's, will succeed Dr. Anthony J. Billittier IV, who has served in the post since 2000. Billittier was first appointed by then-County Executive Joel A. Giambra.

"I commend Dr. Billittier on his years of public service, but I thought that we needed to have a new set of eyes in the department, including the issues that currently exist at the Medical Examiner's Office," Poloncarz said. "Gale Burstein's credentials are impeccable, especially when it comes to public health."

Burstein is an associate clinical professor at the University at Buffalo's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and is medical director for the county Department of Health's sexually transmitted disease clinic.

Poloncarz, who has been county comptroller for the last six years, chose a longtime employee in the County Comptroller's Office to succeed Budget Director Gregory G. Gach. Keating is director of grant accounting services for the Comptroller's Office and serves as the office's chief accountant. He has worked in the Comptroller's Office since 1985.

Like departing County Executive Chris Collins, Poloncarz turned to the County Legislature to fill a top county planning position.

Whyte, an Erie County legislator whose term ends this week, will succeed Kathy Konst as commissioner of environment and planning. Whyte, the Legislature's departing majority leader, ran unsuccessfully for county clerk in November.

Poloncarz cited Whyte's work in passing a countywide regional planning document as one of the reasons behind his decision.

"She was at the forefront of the passage of the Regional Framework for Growth," Poloncarz said. "I think she has the perfect experience to step in and take a depleted Environment and Planning Office and turn it around."

Siragusa, who has served as deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Buffalo regional office of the state attorney general, will replace Jeremy A. Colby as county attorney.

Daniel J. Neaverth Jr. is Poloncarz's choice for commissioner of emergency services, succeeding Gregory W. Skibitsky. Neaverth, a former county deputy commissioner for emergency services and a 22-year member of the Orchard Park Fire District, complained during the election campaign that he was ousted from his county job by Collins as a "political attack."

Neaverth has most recently served as vice president of operations for Orchard Park EMS Inc., and a game day operations and emergency management consultant for the Buffalo Bills. Neaverth's father, the broadcasting veteran, narrated television ads for the Poloncarz campaign.

Poloncarz said he plans to announce additional nominees soon but is awaiting the results of background and credit checks.

"I want to be thorough," Poloncarz said. "I want to be secure in the knowledge that the individuals we're bringing in are the right people for the position and don't have anything that would be considered a black mark against them."

Timothy C. Callan, executive director for the Poloncarz transition team, said background checks will be paid for through the campaign.

Poloncarz did not release prospective salaries for any of the five nominees. That information, he said, would be available when he submits his nominations to the Legislature early next week.

"There will be budgetary savings in the long run," Poloncarz said.

Poloncarz has previously announced he plans to appoint Richard M. Tobe as deputy county executive.

email: djgee@buffnews.com