Wendel Highlights Accomplishments, Shares Goals During Address

County Executive PJ Wendel is pictured giving his State of the County address at the Chautauqua County Legislature Chambers. P-J photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE – Before County Executive PJ Wendel took the podium to deliver his State of the County message, a short video played of President Ronald Reagan during his 1981 Inaugural Address. In it, Reagan said, “It’s time for us to realize, we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline.”

That clip kicked off Wendel’s 24-minute speech, titled “Our county, our vision, our future,” where he discussed successes in the past year and talked about “building a vibrant tomorrow.”


Wendel highlighted a number of accomplishments, covering topics such as Complete Streets Programs which make roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, the county’s tax rate which is the lowest in more than 40 years, industrial investments being made at Wells Ice Cream in Dunkirk and Cummins Engine in Jamestown, and the many new small businesses in the county.

For business, Wendel said in the last year the county Industrial Development Agency has embarked on 34 projects in alignment with the county’s economic development strategy, resulting in $842 million in investments. “These strategic endeavors are projected to yield 574 permanent jobs within 15 different local industries, while preserving 2,314 existing positions,” he said.

Along with Cummins Engine and Wells, Wendel highlighted the purchase of Weber Knapp by local ownership and the establishment of a Northeastern U.S. Distribution Center by Refresco at the former Conagra facility in Dunkirk.

With the county jail, Wendel noted that in 2023 the jail’s medical unit achieved national accreditation, while the Substance Abuse Recovery and Re-entry Program and associated Medication Assisted Treatment Program completed their first full year of operation. “With evidence-based treatment for opioid and alcohol use disorders, these programs enrolled 304 incarcerated individuals in 2023, with 3,519 medication-assisted treatment nursing visits,” he said.

He also highlighted the recently opened re-entry hub for newly released inmates, offering essential services to support their transition back into the community. “The overarching goal of this initiative is to reduce recidivism rates by equipping individuals with the necessary tools and resources for successful community reintegration and long-term rehabilitation,” he said.

For county operations, Wendel shared about the new county office space on Lucas Avenue in Dunkirk, the county’s Mobile Health Unit vehicle, and the county’s Welcome Home Baby program which provided in-home visits to nearly half of all newborns.

With lakes, Wendel praised the dredging in Barcelona Harbor, which was able to take place because of federal funding obtained from Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nick Langworthy. “Similar funding was secured for the dredging of Dunkirk Harbor in the city of Dunkirk and enhancements to its break wall, as well as for the dredging of Cattaraugus Creek Harbor in the town of Hanover,” he added.

For Chautauqua Lake, Wendel thanked the legislature for being able to use $500,000 of county funds for in-lake maintenance, expanding early-season lake weed harvesting and continued maintenance efforts throughout the year. “These initiatives are crucial for preserving the long-term health and vibrancy of Chautauqua Lake for generations to come,” he said.


In 2024, Wendel wants an analysis of the county office space in Mayville. “Engineers and architects will review and provide recommendations to best reconfigure our building’s internal footprint at the Gerace Office Building and Hall R Clothier Building in Mayville, NY. Neither of these buildings have seen any significant changes since they were constructed,” he said.

Wendel believes creating a modern and efficient workspace is crucial. “This investment is aimed to enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. It is proven that a well-designed and equipped environment fosters collaboration, creativity, and comfort. Our buildings need to reflect positively on the county’s image and reputation, both internally and externally. These endeavors attract top talent and instill confidence in clients and stakeholders,” he said.

He added that a modern workspace will allow for “better utilization of resources, optimizing efficiency and reducing operational costs in the long run.”

For housing, Wendel noted a recently completed market study revealed challenges, primarily with affordability. “As such, the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency and Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth have been working proactively with municipalities to develop multiple projects that will provide affordable, safe, and efficient workforce housing throughout the county. These include a project in Silver Creek, several projects in Dunkirk, a project in Jamestown, and a project in Westfield,” he said.

Wendel also discussed the goal of broadband expansion, saying there are 3,600 homes which are targeted for high speed internet. “This infrastructure upgrade is crucial for economic development and enhancing residents’ quality of life, enabling remote work, better access to services, education, and healthcare,” he said.

In closing, Wendel quoted Reagan, saying, “let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams,” and added, “this is our county, our vision, our future.”


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