Announcement brings four decades in public service to a close
by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
County employees working for Niagara County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow were the first to find out this morning: The long-time county clerk, who has served in office for two decades, will not seek another four-year term this November.
"It is time for me to pass my responsibilities on to a new county clerk in 2016, knowing that I leave that person a vibrant and committed management and staff, whom I have been privileged to lead for so many years," Jagow said in a letter addressed to clerk's office employees.
Jagow's two decades as county clerk are just part of a public service career that has spanned more than 42 years, beginning with work in the then-Niagara County Sheriff's Department, where Jagow worked in the communications department, and later as director of the same department. Jagow also served as a road patrol deputy and a juvenile division investigator; however it is probably his time as chief of the juvenile division for which he is best known.
Jagow departed the Sheriff's Department in 1995 after Gov. George E. Pataki appointed him county clerk, succeeding former County Clerk George D. Maziarz, who vacated the clerk's job to represent Niagara County in the State Senate. Jagow was subsequently elected to a full term that fall.
With the new office came significant responsibilities.
As Jagow noted in his letter to staff this morning, "Ours is a department with enormous responsibilities, from handling millions of dollars in public funds annually, to administering the operations of the Veterans Service Agency and the office of county historian for the people of Niagara. You have been an outstanding and capable staff, and I am grateful for the many opportunities we have had to work together to transform a good organization into a streamlined and exemplary one."
Jagow's service to his community can't just be measured in his time in county government, however. Many who know Jagow also note his many years of dedicated service to the cause of volunteer firefighting and the clerical collar he is seen wearing from time to time. Not only is Jagow now an exempt volunteer firefighter with the Wrights Corners Fire Co., but he is also the company chaplain - a responsibility the ordained minister has been uniquely prepared to take on.
"Faith is important, and I think it has been a key part of everything I have done in my career, and in my community," Jagow said. "In my letter announcing my departure, I told our clerk's office workers that I had been blessed with a supportive family and many friends, and by a professional staff, and I really meant that."
Jagow's firefighting chaplaincy has taken him much farther than Wrights Corners. The retired pastor, who was ordained in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod 45 years ago, also chairs the chaplain's committee of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York and serves as the body's chaplain. Jagow's years of service to FASNY came into play in 2009 when the organization chose Niagara Falls for its convention, bringing more than 3,000 convention attendees to the Cataract City for three days.
Jagow has received his fair share of plaudits for his service. The New York State Association of County Clerks - a body he once served as president - has given him its Lifetime Achievement Award. And, the volunteer firefighter notes with considerable pride, the Niagara County Volunteer Firemen's Association presented him with the Richard Watson Leadership Award in 2013.
"No one ever does these jobs for the praise, but it would be dishonest to say it's not nice to be recognized," Jagow said. "I'm proud of what has been accomplished in 20 years in the clerk's office, and I'm proud of what I've done as a member of this great Niagara County community."
Jagow praised his county workforce, telling them that, during his tenure, they had accomplished a number of high-priority goals, including:
Creating an award-winning county records management program
Implementing an electronic document management system
Upgrading three DMV offices
Becoming one of the first counties to accept the filing of electronic court documents
Leading a successful effort to legalize electronic recording of land records
Developing the "Thank a Vet" discount program that provides discounts for honorably-discharged veterans throughout Niagara County and served as the model for a similar program in Erie County
Pushing county clerk services online with ongoing efforts, including a social media presence launched just last week
"Throughout these many years, my constant overarching goal has been to translate government into excellent customer service," Jagow said in his letter. "It [is] done every day because of ... our hardworking and dedicated staff."
The outgoing clerk also remembered fondly his office's role in Niagara County's 2008 bicentennial, noting he and personnel of the county historian's office had pushed for greater education and awareness of county history. The small-time farmer and tractor collector also noted with pride that many barns around Niagara County are still emblazoned with the bicentennial logo - an initiative he and his staff devised.
Despite obvious pride in the success of his tenure of office, Jagow pointed to what he considered his biggest accomplishment, something he had tipped off in the second sentence of his letter to employees, where he wrote, "I have been blessed with a supportive family and many friends."
"I've been married to my wife, Maureen, for 48 years. I've had two wonderful children, Rev. Andrew W. Jagow and Bethany Jagow Moulden. Andrew and his wife, Kathy, live in Virginia, and Bethany lives right here in North Tonawanda. And I have two wonderful granddaughters, Lily and Claire," Jagow said. "For me, being able to spend more time with them will be the real reward."