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Home > Leadership > Mayor > Administration Cabinet and Senior Staff

Administration Cabinet and Senior Staff

Byron W. BrownByron W. Brown – Mayor

Mayor Byron Brown took the Oath of Office as the 58th Mayor of Buffalo, New York on December 31, 2005.

Elected Mayor with over 60 percent of the vote in the November 2005 General Election, Mayor Brown came into office emphasizing greater accountability and efficiency in City Hall, improving the quality of life for all city residents and a commitment to strengthening and expanding the city’s economic development activities.

Since taking office, Mayor Brown has followed those three guiding principles by launching a Zero Tolerance Law Enforcement initiative targeting quality of life crimes, along with other criminal activity in the city; implemented the management accountability tracking CitiStat Buffalo program, which monitors city departments’ service delivery activities on a weekly basis; and reconfigured the city’s economic development activities by creating the Department of Economic Development, Permit and Inspection Services, a change that has provided greater coordination and cooperation in all development activities taking place in the City of Buffalo. Click to continue to Mayor Brown's biography.

Elizabeth Ball

Elizabeth "Betsey" Ball - Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff

Elizabeth “Betsey” Ball is a seasoned government professional who brings over two decades of strong public sector experience and a commitment to progressive and effective leadership to her role as Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff of the City of Buffalo Office of the Mayor.  She joins the Brown administration after more than four years of service in the New York State Executive Chamber, where she was appointed Director of Legislative Affairs by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.  As a Senior Staff member, Ball worked to achieve legislative support for the Governor’s agenda, and helped to guide the Administration’s programs and policies through the legislative process.

In her new role, Ball will oversee the day-to-day operations of City Hall, as well as legislative efforts.  She will also lead Mayor Brown’s continued effort to further improve the performance of city government.

Prior to her work in the Governor’s Office, Ball served as Chief of Staff for NYS Senator (now Democratic Conference Leader) Andrea Stewart-Cousins, where she was selected for The Capitol’s second annual list of Rising Stars in Politics and Government in 2010. She also served as Senior Advisor to two Speakers of the New York City Council and as a Chief of Staff in the New York State Assembly.


Donna J. EstrichCommissioner, Administration, Finance, Policy and Urban Affairs

Commissioner Estrich is an 18-year veteran of City Hall. She has been the city budget director since 2007. In 2006 she served as the interim commissioner of administration and finance. While in City Hall she has held the positions of audit inspector, budget analyst, principal management analyst, and director of budget, administration & finance. Commissioner Estrich holds a Bachelor of Science, from the State University of New York at Buffalo and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration.  She serves on various ministries within her church.

Otis T. Baker

Otis T. Barker, Sr. – Deputy Commissioner, Community Services
Otis Barker has over 24 years of results-oriented experience in staff management, project management, budgeting and planning, and product/market research.  Mr. Barker served as the District Office Chief of Staff to the former Deputy Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Arthur O. Eve from 1996-2002. Following his time in the State Assembly, he served as Director of Community Relations for State Senator Byron W. Brown, where he oversaw constituent services.  In 2006 Otis Barker was appointed by Mayor Brown to the position of Director of the Division for Youth. 

As Deputy Commissioner of Community Services, he will support the Commissioner in the daily operations of contract administration and compliance, the Division of Senior Services, the Division of Substance Abuse, the Youth Bureau and the Division for Workforce Employment Training.

Crystal J. Rodriguez

Crystal J. Rodriguez - Chief Diversity Officer
Crystal J. Rodriguez was named the City of Buffalo's first Chief Diversity Officer in February of 2016 as a part of the Mayor's Opportunity agenda for the City of Buffalo. Rodriguez began her career in City Hall as Mayor Byron Brown's Executive Assistant before leaving to complete a fellowship with the New York State Office of Court Administration, where she clerked for various Judges within the 8th Judicial District. Rodriguez returned to City Hall as the Executive Director of the Commission on Citizens' Rights & Community Relations in 2008 where she spearheaded such campaigns as 'Buffalo Bulldozes Bullying" and the City of Buffalo Opportunity Pledge initiative. Ms. Rodriguez holds a B.A. in Social Sciences from California State University San Marcos, and both a J.D. and LL.M. from the University at Buffalo School of Law.

James Comerford – Commissioner, Department of Permit & Inspection Services

Jim Comerford began his career in city government in 1979 as a Building Inspector and worked his way through the ranks – as Supervisor of Field Inspections, Director of Building Inspections, Commissioner of Inspections & Community Revitalization and Vice President of the Buffalo Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDC).

At BEDC, Comerford was Project Coordinator for the Pilot Field Construction project from start to conclusion. Upon completion of Pilot Field, Comerford oversaw a number of new City of Buffalo construction projects until he left for the private sector in June of 1994.

After 13 years in the private sector, he returned to City Hall in August of 2007 as Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development, Permit & Inspection Services. Currently, Comerford is Commissioner of the reconfigured Permit & Inspection Services

Daniel Derenda – Commissioner, Buffalo Police Department

Kevin Helfer – Commissioner, Parking

Mayor Brown appointed Kevin Helfer Commissioner of Parking, a new department created in July 2010.

In 1994, Helfer began his career in public service when he was elected to the Common Council representing the University District. He was the minority leader, served on all of the legislative committee, and was a board member of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.

He also has served in county government. In 2000, Helfer was appointed the Director of Contract Compliance for the County of Erie. In 2005, he became the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services.

From 2006-2010, he was the Executive Director for Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, Inc., a private company that manages 7,500 parking spaces, at nine different locations and with over a $10.5 million budget.

Martin Kennedy – Commissioner, Assessment and Taxation

Marty Kennedy brings a wealth of knowledge to this important city department and I am confident he will lead this department well as Commissioner, said Mayor Brown. His years of public sector experience coupled with his private sector background will help with his new responsibilities in leading the Department of Assessment and Taxation in the future.

Martin Kennedy has worked in the Department of Assessment and Taxation for the past 17 years and was most recently in the position of Assessor.  He has 21 years of real estate experience in the private sector, is a graduate of Bryant and Stratton and also completed coursework at Erie Community College and the University at Buffalo.  He also served in the US Army.

Brendan Mehaffy – Executive Director, Office of Strategic Planning

Brendan Mehaffy was appointed Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning in March 2010.  Mehaffy’s appointment was a central part of the city’s economic development reorganization effort, which Mayor Brown announced during his 2009 State of the City Address.  Mehaffy began working as an attorney in the city’s Law Department, where he was the point person on several high profile projects, including negotiating with the county on the return of the operation and management of city parks. Prior to working for the city, he worked in private practice and was focused on land use, environmental and small business development issues. This included working with municipalities across the country to revise and update their zoning codes.  He holds a B.A. in economics from SUNY Binghamton, a Masters degree in urban regional planning from the London School of Economics and a J.D. in law from the University at Buffalo.

Oswaldo Mestre, Jr.

Oswaldo Mestre, Jr. – Director, Division of Citizen Services

Oswaldo Mestre has a strong background in human services, developing programs systems and community development initiatives in not-for-profit and governmental organizations.  Since 1997, Oswaldo has headed the Buffalo Weed and Seed Program, which was awarded the New York State Attorney General's Neighborhood Watch Award of Excellence in 2003.  Oswaldo began his human service career in 1991 as a Senior Youth Counselor at St. Augustine's Center, Inc.  Oswaldo has studied in Public Policy and Administration at the University at Buffalo.

Steven Stepniak

Steven Stepniak – Commissioner, Public Works, Parks & Streets

Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak has previous experience working as the Senior Engineer for the City of Buffalo Division of Engineering, which has given him the opportunity to develop extensive administrative and organizational skills. Mr. Stepniak has also worked as Director of Street Cleaning and Snow Removal, where he gained leadership experience through controlling the daily activities of a multi-functional department. Stepniak majored in Communications at Canisius College and has specialized training in Risk and Technical Management, Hazard Communications, and Engineering.

Garnell W. Whitfield, Jr.

Garnell W. Whitfield, Jr.  – Commissioner, Buffalo Fire Department

A 23 year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department, Deputy Commissioner Whitfield, served as Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Services (EMS), which oversees all first aid and EMS calls in the Department. As the Department's Chief Fire Administrator from 1998 to 2004, Whitfield served as liaison between Civil Service and the New York State Police and Fire Retirement System. A front-line Firefighter, Deputy Commissioner Whitfield has served at Engine 37, Engine 31, and Engine 33.