LOCKPORT – Twelve years and two blocks from when and where he originally hoped that it would happen, Scott A. Schrader started an important government job Monday in Lockport.
Schrader, a leading candidate for Niagara County manager in 2003 before losing out to Gregory D. Lewis, started his new position as the city’s director of finance at a record salary of $95,000 a year.
Schrader said, “Looking at the budget, looking at the comptroller’s reports, there’s a challenge here that needs to be addressed. I’m here to basically provide help.”
Like Lewis, Schrader, 46, described himself as a nonpolitical professional in government management. “It’s a thankless job,” he said, adding that his role often has been to make unpopular suggestions for money-saving efficiencies, and once he has worn out his welcome, he moves on.
That is what happened at some of his past jobs, including his most recent one, as assistant chief administrative officer in Burlington, Vt., from 2010 to the end of 2014. He resigned because of what he said were “philosophical differences with the new mayor.”
“I’m a professional public administrator. That’s what I do. It’s a difficult career choice, but it is what it is,” Schrader said. “The baggage you pick up, it’s rare in my opinion for a manager or administrator to sit more than four or five years.”
“From my conversations with the mayor here, we are philosophically in sync,” Schrader said. Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey agreed, saying, “I expect Scott will have a successful tenure in the City of Lockport.”
Schrader said his immediate goals are to close out the 2014 financial records and to complete the state-mandated annual report by April 30. The city’s financial mess, which led to emergency state-authorized borrowing in tandem with a requirement for preapproval of the city’s budgets by the State Comptroller’s Office, was triggered by the Council’s move to appropriate funds for 2013 that turned out to be nonexistent because of erroneous financial statements.
“The City Council and the mayor have done quite a bit already,” Schrader said. “I can give them the benefit of my managerial experience in government, particularly in New York … I feel my role here is to be a tool that gives them a better understanding of what needs to be done.”
He said he knows his fiscal suggestions may impact individuals. “I’m fiscally conservative, but I’m also socially liberal, so I have my own conflicts internally,” he said.
Schrader was raised in Strykersville and graduated from Attica Central School. He went to Florida to study marine biology and chemistry at the University of Miami, when one day he had a life-changing encounter with the city manager of Opa-Locka, Fla., who was doing legal research at the university.
“He saw something in me and offered me a job as an assistant to the city manager,” Schrader said. He spent five years there, earning his science degree part-time while working full time in Opa-Locka City Hall. He eventually became assistant city manager there.
“In 1994, there was a political change in the city. It did not look like my future with the city was going to be very bright,” Schrader said. He headed back to New York and became deputy county administrator in Jefferson County from 1995 to 1999. He then was county administrator and budget officer in Montgomery County. He held posts in other upstate counties and in 2003 he interviewed twice unsuccessfully for the Niagara County manager post.
After that, he became county administrator and budget officer in Cortland County from 2003 to 2010, when the County Legislature turned over politically.
His next job was in Burlington.
Schrader said he and his family are trying to sell their Vermont home, where his wife and three children remain while he looks for a house in Lockport. He had family reasons for wanting to return to New York
“The educational system in Vermont is not anywhere near what I would like it to be for my kids,” said Schrader, whose children are 16, 14 and 12 years old. “To some degree my parents and my wife’s parents are aging, and I would like to be able to provide for them if and when they need help.”