Recently, former Tompkins County Administrator Scott Heyman received an award for lifetime achievement. It’s a well-deserved honor, as he worked as the Tompkins County Administrator for 13 years before becoming the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes.
Now, he works as the Director of Education and Training at the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County (HSCTC) and was recently awarded the 2015 Nonprofit Award for Career Achievement presented by M&T Bank and produced by BizEvents.
Ithaca Times: So, for starters, what all have you been doing since you stopped working for the county?
Scott Heyman: From 1998 to 2008 I was the CEO at Planned Parenthood for this county, and while I was there we merged with the Planned Parenthood to the west and south of us. So I stayed there for 10 years, and about six months after I left there I invited [HSCTC executive director] Kathy Schlather out to lunch and said, “The coalition really ought to do a workshop series and make training more readily available.” She said, “Funny you should suggest that. We’ve been working on that for two years.” So I said to Kathy, “Cool, I’m retired now so I’ll volunteer to help you.” Then Lisa Horn [who previously held Heyman’s current job] said that she wanted to do different things with the agency, and Kathy asked if I wanted to take over her job and be the coordinator of the workshop series.
The job has grown since then. I do consults for local agencies, more so for their boards than their staff. Every now and then they want a more extensive consult, and we do charge for that. I worked with a few of the local finance officers in 2013 to organize a financial officers association. That still exists, and we meet monthly. We have 30 trainers in our workshop series. Then in 2014 I did the same thing for nonprofit executive directors.
I also do interim executive director stints. I’m on number four. I was the interim executive director at Suicide Prevention. In 2011, I was interim executive director at Lifelong. In 2012 I did the same thing for the T. Collin Campbell Foundation, and currently I’m the interim executive director at Challenge.
IT: You seem like you’re probably on a bunch of nonprofit boards. Are you?
SH: I’m on the Family and Children’s Services board.
IT: Oh, so you’ll be housing the new outreach worker position?
IT: What do you think of the idea?
SH: I think it sounds very interesting, very constructive. It’s experimental, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m thrilled they picked Family and Children’s Services to house the position.
IT: What are some of the best parts of what you’re doing now?
SH: I really love it. I loved being head of Planned Parenthood and being county administrator. I wasn’t someone who looked to become a chief executive or an administrator in my life—it sort of fell into my lap. I was invited to apply. I like being in the role of working hard to support people who give direct services. I love doing that, but nobody wants a permanent part-time chief executive [as is the case with the interim director positions]. So, like many people who are in executive jobs, I teach other people to do some of the things that I learn. My own specialty is teaching boards how to organize themselves to be effective. I work really hard at that and I enjoy it.
IT: So you talked about how you became county administrator, but what did you do before becoming county administrator?
SH: I was deputy county administrator for 19 months and I was, for five years before, the county human rights director. Karen Baer is in that position now. I did that from 1978 to 1983. Before that I was in a couple of not very good jobs. Prior to that, in Syracuse, I had taught school for five years.
IT: Where are you from originally?
IT: I see a pattern. Do we always steal our county administrators from Syracuse?
IT: Do you miss being county administrator?
SH: [Pause] Yeah, to some degree.
IT:Is there anything you look back on now and say, “Wow, that was a really great moment for the county” or “That was a really cool thing we did?”
SH: We did lots of cool things. We had eight major construction projects. We fought the garbage wars that many counties had to fight and came up with a really excellent solid waste program … When I was there we had one of the lowest county tax rates in the state; it was like $5 per thousand or less. There are some bad reasons for that. If you look at it, this county exports a lot of its poverty. The result of that is that our public assistance and Medicaid caseloads are much, much lower per capita than the counties around.
IT: Do you miss three-hour legislature meetings?
SH: No! The ultimate was a budget session that went till 1 a.m.
IT: Did meetings still start at 5:30 p.m. at that point?
SH: Yes. At the other end of that spectrum in the late ‘80s there was a year when the legislature raised the property tax rate 20 percent and one person came to the budget hearing … It was very strange. Two years later we went until one in the morning with angry taxpayers.
IT: I heard you won an award recently. What was that for?
SH: It’s for the nonprofit people in the greater Central New York region. It was very nice, Kelly White nominated me, and I got it. I don’t know whether they give an award to everyone who was nominated or whether there were 1,000 people nominated. I got a similar thing from Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services. I’m at that point in life where people recognize longevity and it always feels very good. •