County Executive Robert P. Astorino Friday announced the appointments of two new commissioners, picking from the ranks long-time deputies who have been serving as acting commissioners.
Edward Buroughs was named commissioner of Planning and Kathleen O’Connor was named commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. Both appointments must be confirmed by the Board of Legislators, which previously confirmed their appointments as acting commissioners.
“It is with great enthusiasm that I have asked Ed Buroughs and Kathy O’Connor to become permanent members of my administration,” said Astorino. “Both are seasoned professionals who are greatly respected inside and outside of their departments. The residents of Westchester County will be well-served by the expertise and experience each of them brings to their new jobs.”
The county’s parks system is made up of more than 50 parks, nature centers, hiking and biking trails, golf courses, pools, beaches, Playland and other outstanding recreational areas, as well as the County Center. It spans more than 18,000 acres, attracting more than three million visitors annually. (See www.westchestergov.com/parks) The department – officially known as Parks, Recreation and Conservation (PRC) – has an annual operating budget of $50 million, 70 percent of which is paid for with user fees and contract agreements.
O’Connor, a resident of Mount Pleasant, was deputy commissioner of PRC from 2006 to August of 2010, when Astorino appointed her acting commissioner on the retirement of Joseph Stout. She was first hired by the department in 1980 as a program specialist in camping, and later went on to other positions, including assistant manager of the County Center and director of recreation. She is the first woman commissioner of PRC.
She is also past president of the Westchester Recreation and Parks Society (WRAPS), recipient of the Peter J. Mayer Award of Merit for Lifetime Achievement in Recreation and past vice president of the New York State Recreation and Parks Society.
Said Astorino, “Kathy comes from a family with a distinguished history in parks and recreation. Her father, the late Joseph E. Curtis, was commissioner of Parks and Recreation in the cities of New Rochelle, White Plains and Boston. Coincidentally, Kathy’s daughter, Lauren, has recently accepted a full-time position in the field, bringing the family’s third generation into this area of public service. I have full confidence in Kathy as she assumes the role as commissioner, ensuring that our parks continue to be outstanding destinations for hundreds of thousands of county residents each year.”
O’Connor said, “I am honored to have been chosen for this post. I am confident PRC will continue to provide the fine services county residents have come to count on. I look forward to working closely with the County Executive and his staff in serving the people of this county.”
The Department of Planning works with municipalities and developers to ensure that development across the county adheres to standards, laws and regulations that promote economic growth, protect the environment and preserve quality of life for residents. The department works with a wide array of citizen boards to carry out its work. (See www.westchestergov.com/planning)
Buroughs, a resident of South Salem, joined the Department of Planning in 1994 and became deputy commissioner in 2003. As commissioner, he succeeds Jerry Mulligan, who retired last December.
Said Astorino, “Ed recently received the prestigious Andrew Haskell Green Award from the New York Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association in recognition of his outstanding work in planning over the course of his career. They recognized his fine efforts, and so do I.”Examples of Buroughs’ work include:
• Westchester 2025, the county’s web-based updated comprehensive plan that examines county and municipal planning policies, anticipates changes and provides a guide for development in the county. (See www.westchestergov.com/2025)
• Numerous public discussions on “smart growth” -- the concept of promoting long-range regional sustainability and advocating compact, transit-oriented, walkable and bicycle-friendly land use.
• Pilot transportation planning projects for multiple communities and for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the federally funded policy-making organization that ensures that expenditures of governmental funds for local transportation projects and programs are anchored in a cooperative and comprehensive planning process.
• Serving as Westchester’s liaison on the Tappan Zee Futures Task Force, which addresses bus rapid transit and transit-oriented development along the I-287 corridor in conjunction with the redevelopment plans for the Tappan Zee Bridge.
“I am honored to follow in the distinguished line of professional planners who have headed the county Planning Department over the decades,” Buroughs said. “I look forward to working with the current talented staff to carry out the department’s charter responsibilities in partnership with the County Planning Board.”
SOURCE: Westchester County Executive Communications Director Ned McCormack