Mark C. Poloncarz (born November 7, 1967) is the county executive of Erie County, New York. Poloncarz, a Democrat, was elected county executive on November 8, 2011 after defeating the incumbent county executive Chris Collins a Republican by a 53 - 47 percentage point margin. Poloncarz was re-elected on November 3, 2015 with 66% of the vote when he easily defeated the Republican candidate Raymond Walter (33% of the vote) and Green Party candidate Eric Jones (1% of the vote). Poloncarz is only the 2nd Democrat to be elected to the position of county executive in the 51-year history of the position.
Entering 2015 Poloncarz was heavily favored to be re-elected county executive; however it was expected he would face a Republican challenge from one of three candidates: incumbent county clerk and former New York Secretary of State Christopher Jacobs, incumbent county comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, or legislator Ed Rath, the grandson of the first Erie County Executive Edward Rath. In the end, all three individuals decided not to run and Walter was chosen by the Republicans.
Unlike 2015, when Poloncarz entered the race in May 2011 he was a heavy underdog. However, by focusing on issues of providing efficient, yet cost-effective government, reducing waste, fraud and abuse of the public's tax dollars, supporting the "People's Mandates," and properly funding libraries and arts and cultural institutions, Poloncarz was able to chip away a sizable Collins lead until he won in surprisingly easy fashion. Poloncarz also capitalized on his "son of a steelworker" blue collar background against Collins self-proclaimed businessman style.
Since taking office as Erie County Executive, Poloncarz worked to change the culture of Erie County government and return it to its core mission: provide the programs and services that residents and taxpayers demand as effectively and efficiently as possible. And as such, he made it a priority to restore funding for what he calls the “People’s Mandates,” which include the rodent control program, parks improvements, road and bridge construction, libraries, summer youth programming and a renewed commitment to arts and cultural organizations. These programs were restored by Poloncarz in a fiscally responsible manner without raising taxes. As evidence of the fiscal stewardship, in 2014, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the county’s credit rating three steps to “AA-” and in 2015 Fitch Ratings upgraded the county's credit rating to "A+."
In early 2015, Poloncarz released “Initiatives for a Stronger Community,” his health and human services plan for Erie County. The plan included 49 separate initiatives to address issues of poverty throughout the county, including issues facing the City of Buffalo, which was identified as the 3rd poorest city in America when Poloncarz took office in 2012. Poloncarz also shepherded a pay equity policy through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency requiring all applicants for tax incentives to agree to a policy to provide salary data to the agency to prove they do in fact pay women equally. In 2015, Poloncarz also worked with the county legislature to pass a budget for 2016 that reduced the county's property tax rate from $4.99 to $4.96 per thousand of assessed value, the second year in a row the county's tax rate was reduced.
2014 was a significant year for the Poloncarz administration, including working with the legislature to pass a balanced budget with a small tax cut, opening the Erie County Health Mall, signing an executive order requiring that all contractors with Erie County comply with equal pay laws for women, restructuring the Department of Social Services to address issues with the Division of Child Protective Services, and managing the emergency response to four major weather-related events: two blizzards, flooding in West Seneca and the worst storm to hit the region in nearly 40 years: Winter Storm Knife a/k/a Snowvember Storm.
In 2013, Poloncarz announced his “Initiatives for a Smart Economy,” which represents his administration’s commitment to a comprehensive, innovative approach to economic development and provides the “missing link,” tying a host of diverse initiatives into one regional development effort. Specifically, this plan includes a total of 64 initiatives across a dozen areas, representing the economic gears that, working together, will help drive our economic future. More than half of these Initiatives are complete and showing results around Erie County. In fact, since Poloncarz took office as county executive in January, 2012, more than 16,000 new private sector jobs have been created in the Buffalo-Niagara Metropolitan Area, and the county's unemployment rate has dropped from 8.9% in January, 2012 to 4.7% as of December, 2015.
Additionally, Poloncarz has stated the key to his administration’s success is to create strong partnerships with other levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, educational institutions and community groups. Examples include the creation of one of New York State’s first Land Banks, the establishment of the Erie County Medicaid Anti-Fraud Unit, as well as the successful negotiation of a new 10-year lease with the Buffalo Bills that is fair for local and state taxpayers and kept the team in Buffalo following the death of the team's owner Ralph Wilson Jr.
At the time Poloncarz ran for county executive in 2011 he was the elected county comptroller in Erie County. Poloncarz was first elected comptroller in 2005 and was re-elected in 2009 in a three-person race by defeating Republican Phil Kadet and Independence Party candidate Michael Abramo by a 52 - 45 - 3 percentage point margin, respectively. Prior to being elected comptroller Poloncarz was an American business and finance lawyer residing in Buffalo, New York.
Poloncarz was first elected county comptroller on a platform of restoring fiscal stability and accountability to the county by acting as the taxpayers "watchdog." He is the first comptroller to be elected after a state control board was created and imposed over the county to oversee county finances. While he was the endorsed candidate of the county Democratic party, he defeated 2 challengers in the primary and then a Republican in the general election.
Poloncarz has a bachelor's degree from the University at Buffalo and a law degree from the University of Toledo.
Poloncarz was the 2003 - 2004 Buffalo and western New York coordinator and spokesman for the John Kerry presidential campaign. He was an at large district delegate for John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and to Hillary Clinton at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Poloncarz was the founder and first president of the WNY Coalition for Progress, a progressive think tank in upstate New York which today is known as the Western New York Democrats for Progress.