Wednesday 7 December 2022
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County Appoints Duane Owens as New Personnel Director; Owens Refutes Claims He May Lack Experience

By Staff


duane-owensOnondaga County legislators voted to approve Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s appointment of Duane Owens as the county’s new personnel director, in a 12 to 2 vote, Dec. 6.

And, while a report in Syracuse’s Post Standard said three Republican legislators have questioned whether Owens, who’d previously served as the county’s commissioner of facilities management, had enough experience for the position; Owens said he’s honored to have been selected for the position, and that he’s undoubtedly the best person for the role.

“I’m honored that the county executive, after an extensive interviewing process, has selected me for the position to lead the personnel department for the county,” Owens stated. “I hope to bring to the personnel department the same energy that I’ve brought previously, in the facilities department.”

Owens also said, contrary to the dissenting legislators’ opinions, he does have extensive personnel experience, as well as experience working with labor relations, and payroll departments.

“I have extensive personnel experience,” Owens stated. “I have prior labor relations experience. I have prior employee benefits experience, payroll experience. The main function is that you have a staff that performs the day-to-day functions. You just have to make sure you have the proper manager to put them in positions to make good decisions. My expertise is in managing processes and people, and I’m an expert at identifying talent, and putting talented people into positions to make good decisions for the betterment of the county.”

According to Owens, he also hopes to increase the number of diverse employees who are currently employed in county positions, which is a characteristic he said the county is presently lacking, in both the personnel department, and beyond.

“One of our main focuses is to work at, and improve the diversity of employees at all levels within Onondaga County,” Owens stated. “They have one black female in the whole personnel department, who’s only there because I hired her, before I even was the personnel commissioner. And, she’s a rock star.”

“We’re also looking to improve on bringing a lot of youth, and talent that we lose from Syracuse. We’re looking to bring a lot of that back home,” he stated.

County Executive Mahoney has released the following statement regarding Owens’ appointment:

“Duane Owens will be a very successful commissioner of personnel. In addition to being incredibly intelligent, he has a proven track record from his time as commissioner of facilities. No one has been more successful in recruiting minorities to county government than Duane, and I look forward to him continuing that priority going forward.”

In addition to that, prior to Owens’ appointment, Onondaga County Legislator Linda Ervin also spoke on his behalf, regarding the appointment.

“When I stood on the floor to support this appointment, I said that he had experience,” Ervin stated. “He was not just given the job without any scrutiny. He rose to the top as the best candidate. He’s basically going from one commissioner spot, to another commissioner spot. It’s really a level transfer, almost. So, I didn’t see a reason why there should be so much controversy about it. I thought it would be an easy appointment. Clearly, he’s worked for us successfully now for a number of years, and the reason he has is because he’s managed a department. And, whatever he’s lacking in terms of training, in terms of personnel, he will gain that. So, I see no reason why he should not be capable to handle this position.”

Owens said he realizes he may need some training for his new role, going forward, as would anyone who may be moving into a new position.

However, according to Owens, he also has valuable knowledge that he would like to contribute to the department.

“The issue is, no matter what area you go into, you need to get some training in that particular area,” he stated.”So, I’m going to need to learn that language. But, on the other side of that, I’m going to be training them on how to provide better services to the county.”

Ultimately, Owens said he plans to use his prior experience, in an operations capacity, to provide additional synergy between the county’s departments.

“The personnel department is a services department,” Owens stated. “The problem we always have with personnel, is that none of those people actually understand what goes on down on the floor, in operations. I have the operations background, and the personnel background, so I can fuse the disconnect. There’s going to be synergy there.”

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