Bradford County Planning Director Matt Williams has now taken on the public safety director role as part of a hybrid effort that officials believe will benefit the county.

In the new position of director of planning and public safety, which was approved by commissioners Thursday, Williams fills the vacancy left by Robert Barnes’ second retirement as public safety director last month.

“It had already been a collaborative effort over the years because planning works very closely with public safety with emergencies and grant funding and the other functions that go along with it, so it was just a natural migration to overlap those two functions of public safety director and planning director,” said Commissioner Chairman Daryl Miller.

Williams noted that in emergency situations, the planning office has shut down its day-to-day operations as part of an “all hands on deck” approach so it can provide technical support to emergency management.

Although savings will be realized by merging the two positions together, Commissioner Doug McLinko said more than anything, Williams was the right man for the job.

“Matt brings a unique set of skills to it too,” McLinko said. “Where Bob was a retired fire chief, Matt is going to bring a whole other set of skills for grant funding and the financial end, so I think it’s a really good fit for Matt.”

McLinko noted that Williams will also have the support of 911 Coordinator Robert Repasky and Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Neeley.

“That’s the key word, team,” McLinko continued, “and it takes a team leader, that director to make it successful, and I know that Matt is going to be successful. He is going to do a terrific job.”

Williams said he was approached two months ago about the position, and believed it provided an opportunity to consolidate efforts to a single point of contact as they continue working together.

“Certainly a lot of us now already work on combined efforts, but by unifying us into one single point of contact, I think it provides an opportunity for us to flourish and move forward,” he said.

Barnes initially retired in May 2017 after having served the county for six years. He came back to the position in late September 2018 to replace Jeff Scarboro, who resigned following a traffic stop in Athens Township that resulted in a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Scarboro pleaded guilty to the charge in February 2019.

Barnes left with 46 years in public service, including 19 years as fire chief and emergency manager for the city of Oneonta and nine years as emergency services coordinator for Otsego County in New York state.

Approval of Williams’ position was retroactive to Oct. 25.

Commissioners also approved the hiring of Colleen Duser as chief assessor effective Nov. 2, while retiring Chief Assessor Donna Roof will continue part-time to help with the transition. Duser is a former assistant vice president of loan originations, real estate division, for Peoples Security Bank and Trust.

Roof is retiring after more than 34 years of service to the county. She was recognized by commissioners last month.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for the county over the decades,” Miller told Roof during that meeting.

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