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Heather Nellis/Recorder staff Montgomery County Executive-elect Matthew L. Ossenfort, standing at right, addresses a group of retired county employees who attended a health insurance meeting at the annex building on Park Street in Fonda Tuesday.

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Incoming executive forming transition team

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - Updated: 10:32 AM

By HEATHER NELLIS

heather.nellis@recordernews.com

FONDA -- Montgomery County Executive-elect Matthew L. Ossenfort's term doesn't start until Jan. 1, but he's not waiting to get to work.

"The more we get done now, the easier things will be," he said Tuesday.

Aside from a number of impromptu meetings and hundreds of phone calls and e-mail conversations before and after his Nov. 5 election, Ossenfort had his first formal meeting with department heads last week.

And, on Tuesday, he introduced himself to employees and retirees, scoped out office space, and met with Data Processing Coordinator Daniel Colon about developing a multi-year plan for modernizing county operations.

In that meeting, Colon also agreed to join Ossenfort's transition team to guide the switch to a charter form of government.

"It's a way to have some realistic goals ready by Jan. 1," Ossenfort said, adding the rest of the team will be finalized by Dec. 1.

"[Information Technology] touches everything," Ossenfort said of choosing Colon.

"I have a lot of ideas, and I've had them for a long time," Colon said.

Some of the other things they talked about were the creation of county e-mail addresses for elected officials (versus the current use of their personal e-mail addresses), centralizing IT maintenance and purchases, and coordinating the needs of Ossenfort's new office, which will be staffed with a secretary.

Though he hasn't settled on it yet, on Tuesday Ossenfort considered stationing his headquarters at some vacant rooms in the current Board of Supervisors offices.

The bulk of Colon and Ossenfort's conversation, though, was exchanging ideas in developing both short- and long-term plans for upgrading the facilities and making operations more efficient, and cost-effective.

"Infrastructure isn't just brick and mortar, it's also IT," Ossenfort said.

For example, Colon said the county needs to start thinking about upgrading the county's antiquated analog phone system, while Ossenfort said one of his first actions will be initiating an energy audit by the state Energy Research and Development Authority.

"One of my biggest pet peeves is the air conditioner units in every window," Ossenfort said.

Ossenfort recognized that overhauling the county's facilities can't be accomplished in a year.

"I'm here for four years, but we need to think about five-year, 10-year, and 20-year plans. It has to be apart of the plan, whether I'm here or not," Ossenfort said.

The other important piece to such plans is conveying the needs to the public, Ossenfort said.

"We obviously won't be able to put everything we want to do into next year's budget, but it's about working smarter and prioritizing, and making sure we get the public behind it," Ossenfort said.

Ossenfort also indicated he has plans to bring in staff from the state Comptroller's Office on best practices for budgeting, tackle the county's solid waste strategy, and take a look at health insurance costs.

He told a group of retired employees in attendance at a health insurance informational seminar that he's going to look at the plans, and see what can be done to address reported steep prescription costs.

"We need to cut our losses, and move forward," Ossenfort told them.

     

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