John Sheffer to Step Down as Executive Director of UB Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth

By Arthur Page

Release Date: June 16, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- John B. Sheffer, II, founder and executive director of the University at Buffalo's Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth, announced today that he will retire from the leadership role at the institute on Sept. 1. Sheffer, who has led the institute since its inception in 1997, will continue to be associated with it as senior fellow.

"This has been a dream job for me and, together with our staff, I take enormous pride in what the institute has accomplished in the past seven years," Sheffer said in making the announcement. "The institute is strong and the university and community are both very supportive of our program. I think it's an ideal time for a transition to new leadership and to build on this initial work."

Among projects that the institute has accomplished for Buffalo Niagara under Sheffer's leadership are the groundbreaking State of the Region project, the Western New York Regional Information Network, the Regional Economic Development Database, an online permitting program for Erie County and the Regional Economic Development Strategy. The institute serves as project manager for the Buffalo Niagara Cultural Tourism Initiative and is consulting in the City of Buffalo's new comprehensive plan and in the annual Report Card on Charitable Giving in Erie County initiated by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.

UB President John B. Simpson praised Sheffer's leadership of the institute as "truly exemplary. Under his stewardship, the institute has grown into a significant regional resource and a highly regarded site for in-depth research, analysis and discourse concerning the issues that both challenge and stimulate productive growth and development. John's service as founder and executive director of the institute has proven to be of great and lasting benefit not only to our university, but to all of Buffalo Niagara. On behalf of the entire UB community, I extend my great thanks and appreciation for his outstanding vision and commitment."

Simpson said he expects UB's Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth "will continue to play a critical leadership role in the region, and to serve perhaps as the cornerstone of a new comprehensive university approach to effectively serving our region.

"UB and the region," Simpson noted, "are fitting partners in the business of generating ideas toward greater regional opportunity and growth, and in this regard John's excellence has ensured that the future of the institute is very bright indeed. I look forward to his continuing counsel, and to a productive search for the right successor to follow in his footsteps and lead the institute to increasingly greater success."

Mary H. Gresham, Ph.D., UB vice president for public service and urban affairs, said a search to identify Sheffer's successor will begin shortly.

"It is not an easy bill to fill because the leader of the institute needs to have both a background in public issues and a strong familiarity with the people, strengths and processes of the university," Gresham said. "Transition planning has been in the works for several months. We are committed to continuing this important work and helping to move the region ahead."

A major initiative of the University at Buffalo, the institute was approved in 1997 by former UB President William Greiner as a part of UB's Office of Public Service and Urban Affairs.

Under Sheffer's direction, the institute has more than quadrupled its size over the past seven years. Through its various projects and programs, it has applied its resources strategically and built a reputation for sound research and analysis on critical regional issues. Funding for the institute's work comes primarily from the university, State of New York, local foundations and many public and private clients, including Erie and Niagara counties and the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, among others.

"The institute is now a critically important part of the regional focus of UB," said Gresham. "John has done an extraordinary job in leading the effort, in building a first-rate professional staff and in serving a very practical, useful role in the community. He has brought in more than $5 million in funding for institute projects and initiatives."

A former village mayor, state assemblyman and state senator, Sheffer has brought his practical political and professional background to the classroom in the UB Law School and School of Architecture and Planning, as well as to the institute. Among awards he has received since coming to UB in 1993 are the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service; Public Administrator of the Year from the Niagara Chapter, American Society for Public Administration; Outstanding Alumnus of Western New York 2000 from the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Western New York; environmental award from the New York State Labor and Environment Network; the Honorary Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UB Law School; Archival Advocacy Award from the New York State Archives, State Education Department, and 2004 Citizens of Achievement Award from the League of Women Voters of New York State.

Referring to his continuing relationship with UB and the institute as senior fellow, Sheffer said: "I want to be a part of the continued work of the institute and support a new director in every way possible. I am very enthused about the vision that John Simpson has for the engagement of the university in the community. The city and region have substantial challenges and I believe the institute will play an increasingly vital role, in collaboration with other units at UB, in helping to solve those problems."

Sheffer said he also expects to continue to assist with projects of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), primarily in Africa and the Middle East. In recent years, he has traveled to Lebanon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Bulgaria on USAID projects focused upon increasing governance capacity of parliaments and local governments.