Lori Humphreys | Staff Writer
Chautauqua Institution is the jewel in the crown of the county known as Chautauqua.
“Chautauqua County is a beautiful, safe, rural area; it is also poor,” said Jane Becker, who has held leadership positions in many county organizations since coming to the area 27 years ago.
At 1 p.m. today at the Chautauqua Women’s Club Professional Women’s Network, Becker will engage that experience to lead “A Conversation on the Economic and Social Wellbeing of Chautauqua County.”
Judge Judith Claire, Chautauqua County Family Court, and Patricia A. Smith, president of Management Strategies, will join Becker.
Claire will describe the various programs she has started to assist children. These include the Court Appointed Special Advocates Association, which addresses the needs of teenagers who age out of the foster care system.
Smith will describe her efforts to create a better system for the aging population.
With an eye to understanding what the word “poor” means when describing Chautauqua County, Becker will present an overview of the county since the mid-1980s. She said the manufacturing base has eroded, as predicted in the 1987 Strategic Plan. The growth of tourism and recreational activities has created jobs. However, they tend to be seasonal, low-paying jobs with no benefits.
There also has been a loss of population. In 1987, there were 147,000 county residents. According to the last census, there now are 135,000.
Becker said there has been a disproportionate loss of working people and the college-educated. “Poor” also seems to affect children and elderly disproportionately, which explains the interests of Claire and Smith.
Becker described the expansion of TitanX Engine Cooling Inc., the arrival of Connection, which is a telephone answering business, and Southern Tier Brewing as bright lights on the economic horizon.
What about Marcellus Shale drilling? From Becker’s point of view, that is an undecided question. However she said there is shale in the county.
“This is a community which can come together,” Becker said.
Currently, Becker is director of Strategic Planning and Human Resources at Vacation Properties. She was president of Libera, a computer software company, and executive director of the Private Industry Council of Chautauqua, Inc. Becker received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Kent State University and has done master’s work at both Kent State and Indiana University.
Claire was in private practice for 16 years before being elected in 1998. She serves on the juvenile justice subcommittee of the New York State Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee and authored “Bench Book Guide for Family Court Judges” in association with Family Court Judge Philip Cortese of Montgomery County. Claire received a juris doctor from State University of New York at Buffalo and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts.
Smith has served on many volunteer boards and was executive director of YWCA of Jamestown and a United Way planner and project director. She has a master’s degree in community service administration from Alfred University and is an adjunct instructor at Jamestown Community College.