Mark C. Poloncarz is Erie County’s eighth County Executive.
Since taking office as Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz has worked to change the culture of Erie County government and return it to its core mission: provide the programs and services that residents and taxpayers demand as effectively and efficiently as possible. And as such, he made it a priority to restore funding for what he calls the “People’s Mandates,” which include the rodent control program, parks improvements, road and bridge construction, libraries, summer youth programming and a renewed commitment to arts and cultural organizations. These programs were restored by Poloncarz in a fiscally responsible manner without raising taxes. As evidence of the fiscal stewardship, in 2014, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the county’s credit rating three steps to “AA-” and in 2015 Fitch Ratings upgraded the county’s credit rating to “A+.”
In early 2015, Poloncarz released “Initiatives for a Stronger Community,” his health and human services plan for Erie County. The plan included 49 separate initiatives to address issues of poverty throughout the county, including issues facing the City of Buffalo, which was identified as the 3rd poorest city in America when Poloncarz took office in 2012. Poloncarz also shepherded a pay equity policy through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency requiring all applicants for tax incentives to agree to a policy to provide salary data to the agency to prove they do in fact pay women equally. In 2015, Poloncarz also worked with the county legislature to pass a budget for 2016 that reduced the county’s property tax rate from $4.99 to $4.96 per thousand of assessed value, the second year in a row the county’s tax rate was reduced.
2014 was a significant year for the Poloncarz administration, including working with the legislature to pass a balanced budget with a small tax cut, opening the Erie County Health Mall, signing an executive order requiring that all contractors with Erie County comply with equal pay laws for women, restructuring the Department of Social Services to address issues with the Division of Child Protective Services, and managing the emergency response to four major weather-related events: two blizzards, flooding in West Seneca and the worst storm to hit the region in nearly 40 years: Winter Storm Knife a/k/a Snowvember Storm.
In 2013, Poloncarz announced his “Initiatives for a Smart Economy,” which represents his administration’s commitment to a comprehensive, innovative approach to economic development and provides the “missing link,” tying a host of diverse initiatives into one regional development effort. Specifically, this plan includes a total of 64 initiatives across a dozen areas, representing the economic gears that, working together, will help drive our economic future. More than half of these Initiatives are complete and showing results around Erie County. In fact, since Poloncarz took office as county executive in January, 2012, more than 16,000 new private sector jobs have been created in the Buffalo-Niagara Metropolitan Area, and the county’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.9% in January, 2012 to 4.7% as of December, 2015.
Additionally, Poloncarz has created strong partnerships with other levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, educational institutions and community groups. Examples include the creation of one of New York State’s first Land Banks, the establishment of the Erie County Medicaid Anti-Fraud Unit, as well as the successful negotiation of a new 10-year lease with the Buffalo Bills that is fair for local and state taxpayers and kept the team in Buffalo following the death of the team’s owner Ralph Wilson Jr.
Before being elected as County Executive, Mark served as Erie County Comptroller for six years. During that time he worked to root out waste, fraud and abuse of the taxpayers’ dollars while creating a more efficient Comptroller’s Office and restoring fiscal stability to Erie County’s government.
As the taxpayer’s watchdog, Mark strengthened the office’s Audit Division and shaped it into an Inspector General-style organization that stopped and prevented waste, fraud and abuse of county tax dollars. As the County’s chief auditor, Mark conducted more than 50 major audits and reviews of Erie County’s departments, which identified more than $30 million in cost savings. For these efforts, Mark’s Audit Division was awarded a prestigious Knighton Award in 2007 by the Association of Local Government Auditors—the first ever received by any municipal government auditor in New York State.
Before running for public office, Mark practiced corporate and finance law in Buffalo with the firms of Watson Bennett LLP and Kavinoky Cook LLP. His legal practice included representing individuals, businesses – large and small – and local governmental authorities during complex public and private mixed finance transactions.
Mark grew up with his parents and two brothers in the blue-collar steel town of Lackawanna. His parents, Charles, a retired steelworker from Bethlehem Steel Corp., and Janice, a nurse from Mercy Hospital, taught him the value of hard work, being frugal and community from a young age. Mark is a graduate of Lackawanna Senior High School, the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Toledo’s College of Law.