Mike Bixler Retires After 35 Years

Posted on August 6, 2012

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Commission President Bill Monaghan, along with fellow Commissioners Tom Ferrell (left) and Pat Shenigo (right), present outgoing Administrator Mike Bixler with a certificate of appreciation for his 35 years of service to the county.

Mike Bixler is retiring after spending his entire career working for Erie County, the past 25 years as county administrator.  During that time Bixler has presided over a county government that has become both more complex and more efficient. 

When Bixler started in 1977, the county budget was approximately $20,048,737 annually. Today, it’s $112,102,337. With slightly under 700 employees, the county is now one of the area’s largest employers.

But for a nagging knee injury that cut his baseball career short, Bixler’s life might have taken a different turn. Mike had been an excellent shortstop for Malone College, where he got his degree in finance. The knee injury forced a move to third base and ended any dreams of signing with the pros. 

As it turned out, professional baseball’s potential loss turned out to be Erie County’s gain. Bixler was hired into the county’s Finance Department at a time when ledgers were entered and reconciled by hand. Doing the county’s accounting was time-consuming. One change or mistake could take minutes, if not hours, to correct. By the time Bixler was appointed administrator in 1987, computers and electronic spreadsheets had replaced the books of ledgers.

As administrator Bixler identified building a new jail, expanding and professionalizing landfill operations and extending water and sewer lines among the biggest accomplishments he’s presided over. 

Bixler helped put these big projects in perspective.

“Much of the growth in the size of all county governments came as a result of new state legislation. Erie County residents have invested tens of millions of dollars through the county to clean up our environment, expand our infrastructure and offer services to our citizens in need. As a result, Erie County has earned a reputation for being a good place to live and raise a family.”

Erie County has also earned an envious reputation among its sister counties for how well the business of county government is run. Bixler mentioned how the county is often called on for advice, especially from similarly sized counties across the state. 

He cited the Information Technology department as an example. Rather than have separate IT functions grow up inside, Erie County decided early on to have one centralized department. This has avoided duplicating staff and equipment saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the years.     

Bixler also pointed to Human Resources as another area where his peers in other counties have looked to Erie County as a model. Innovations such as wellness programs have produced both a healthier work force and lower insurance costs.  In addition, employee trust funds are separately and fully funded. 

As he steps aside, Bixler is happy with the organization he leaves behind. “Erie County is in good shape. Thanks to the leadership from our commissioners – past and present – our residents have a government that is progressive in its outlook and stable with its finances. We’re able to be a good partner with businesses that want to grow or relocate here. We can also help when citizens are in need.  In these challenging economic times, that’s a very good place to be.”