In the News  Archive

Editorial Board visit with Lake Placid News: Willie Janeway, Adirondack Council

January 8, 2015
Lake Placid News

By ANDY FLYNN

(This is the first part of a two-part interview. The second part will be published in the Jan. 16 issue.)

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn spoke with Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway on Friday, Dec. 26 at the LPN office.

LPN: A lot of people know of your work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but many still remember when you worked and lived in Lake Placid. Remind people of your connection to the area.
Article Photos

JANEWAY: I was fortunate enough to visit the Adirondacks as a child, to hike and fish here, and now I bring my children here. I went to St. Lawrence University, and after graduating, I began full-time work and moved to North Elba and worked for the Adirondack Mountain Club for almost 10 years.

LPN: What did you do after ADK?

JANEWAY: After that, I worked for The Nature Conservancy in the capital district and then did a stint working for Gov. Pataki. I did more work for The Nature Conservancy and then with the Spitzer administration became head of the DEC for the Hudson Valley in the Catskill region. I did that for six years until the phone rang and people said, "Hey Willie, there's an opening here in the Adirondacks. You can come home." My wife and I thought about it for a millisecond, and said, "That sounds great. We can get back up to the community we miss and work in a landscape that we think is the most special one in the world."

LPN: Full disclosure, when you were working for the Adirondack Mountain Club, you were my boss. I was working there on Loj crew back in the early 1990s. What do all your different work experiences bring to the table for the Adirondack Council?

JANEWAY: There are two things. One, those experiences helped me appreciate how incredibly special the Adirondack Park is, how hard working the people are here, how globally unique the landscape, the environment, the mountains, the water and the wildlife that we have. My experiences help me appreciate that the Adirondacks are unlike anything else in the world. They are really special, and we have to work hard to make it work.

Those experiences make me want to work with others and build coalitions and partnerships because I feel firmly that there's a lot more agreement about what's special about the Adirondacks than there is disagreement. And we all can help the state do a better job here if we work together. If our leaders in the state, who I've worked with, think of the Adirondacks as a place where everyone's fighting with everybody else about this project or that, they've got much less of an inclination to come up here and make the Park work.

The flip side of that is if they see us willing to sit down - the Adirondack Council, local realtors, local government leaders - to decrease the use of road salt to have safe roads and clean water, to better capitalize on tourism by building a tourist infrastructure, to build better wastewater treatment facilities so we can have better development in hamlets and better protect the backcountry, the more we focus on those types of things where there is agreement, the more it's likely that the state's leaders ... come up here and be a part of something that is fun and successful.

I think there's a growing amount of that in the Adirondacks. The Common Ground Alliance is just one example.

LPN: What's your style of getting people together to make things happen?

JANEWAY: I think it's really important to be open and transparent about the Adirondack Council's agenda. When I started, one of the first things the board and I wanted to do was update the strategic plan. We didn't change our mission or vision as an organization, but we developed an updated strategic plan to protect more land as wilderness, help struggling communities be more vibrant and economically successful, better protect clean water and clean air, making sure we have working farms and working forest land. We confirmed those four primary objectives.

And I think the key is to be open and transparent about our agenda. Then it's listening, taking the time to tour the Adirondacks and sit down with community leaders and other stakeholders who we might not have a lot in common with us, and talk and listen and identify areas where we can work together. I think there's a lot more agreement out there, and I've been finding that for the last two years now.

LPN: What's on tap for 2015 at the Adirondack Council?

JANEWAY: What's exciting about 2015 is we have a governor who leads the state of New York, and he's very hands-on and he loves the Adirondacks. So that gives us an incredible opportunity for us at the Adirondack Council. We want to help the governor make the Adirondack Park a global success for wilderness, including water protection and for struggling communities to make sure they're more economically successful. Making sure we have enough kids in schools and enough jobs, that's part of it.

The governor has laid out some very general goals for his second term that sound great. For 2015, especially during January, the real key will be the state of the state and the budget where the governor lays out not only the broad vision an details of a one-year budget, but buried in that budget are the details of the financial plan for the state for the next 10 years. During January, we hope the governor follows through on the re-election language, which was very positive on the Adirondacks, positive on protection, positive to help the communities.

The Regional Economic Development Council grants were announced recently. A lot of wastewater and clean water infrastructure projects were announced as part of that, so we took that as a positive sign. ...

The macro vision seems to be there. For 2015, we have to see if we can together fill in the details in a way. And it's not just the Council saying, "Here's the way to do it" or the local government saying, "Here's what we think is important." It's about working together with the leaders of the state so we can better protect the wild lands and backcountry that make this area so special. By doing so, we can better help the hamlets thrive and get stronger so we have a stronger economic base and more jobs, keep families here so we can keep kids in schools and the community can be vibrant and real.

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