Mark Ameele has been appointed as the new director for the Wayne County Probation Department following the retirement of former interim director Dale Mead.
Ameele was appointed to the position Tuesday, April 18th at the Board of Supervisors meeting, effective immediately, with an annual salary of $74,454.
A 27-year veteran to the department, Ameele has a long history of working in Wayne County. He started as a probation officer in 1990 and was soon promoted to senior probation officer. In 2010 he was promoted again to a supervisor. Upon Mead’s appointment to director after former director Rick Stevens’ retirement in 2015, Ameele was promoted to deputy director.
When Mead retired, Ameele said he applied for the director position and went through the rigorous interviewing process by the county board’s selection committee. At the time of his appointment, Ameele was serving as director following Mead’s retirement in November 2016.
“The department has been actively going in the right direction for years,” Ameele said, adding that he intends to keep that momentum.
The new director said he would like to see an increase in staff training in programs that will help probationers stay on the straight and narrow for years to come. Among those programs are employment services and ODES through Workforce Development designed to address recidivism with the idea of cutting down on idol time by giving probationers something productive to do thereby keeping them from reoffending.
Ameele said he also recognizes the opioid crisis occurring across the country. His staff is trained in Narcan, but he would like to further that education so probation officers can learn to identify symptoms of opioid abuse and how to help those offenders.
“In other words, to make an early intervention,” Ameele explained. “Be active in the community and be very active and proactive in the heroin crisis.”
Ameele said personnel is one of the toughest issues any administrator faces and is one of the biggest challenges he sees in his new role. He hopes to maintain consistency and keep everyone working on the same page while treating everyone equally, he said.
Unfunded state mandates have been a struggle with many departments in many counties. Years ago, the state introduced the Ignition Interlock Device for those convicted of a driving while intoxicated crime. Minimal funding, $20,000, was received to monitor the new program and dedicate staff to it. That funding has decreased to $13,000 and the staff needed to monitor it has increased.
“(Alcohol is) one of the substances that has been abused for years and years,” Ameele said.
The probation department has over 300 probationers using an interlock device and Ameele said he sees it working while offenders have the device.
Now Ameele said he has a new mandate he must deal with. Just this year legislators passed Raise the Age legislation that raises the age of youthful offenders to be managed in juvenile courts. Previously, offenders up to age 15 were sent to juvenile court while age 16 and up were treated as adults. Under the new law, offenders age 16 and 17 will also go to juvenile court. The law is still new and the specifics are still being sorted, but Ameele said the new law will require shifting probationers age 16 and 17 over to his youthful offenders unit.
“We have a unit that managed offenders up to 15 years old,” he said. “They will now have to absorb 16 and 17 year olds from other probation officers.”
It’s a sizeable shift for the department and increases the workload on one unit while freeing up another. The ramifications of that shift are unclear at this early date, but Ameele said he’s up to the challenge.
“I welcome the opportunity to work with everyone in the county as the new probation director,” he said. “I look forward to working transparently and in succeeding.”
-Tammy Whitacre, fingerlakes1.com