By Gwendolyn Craig
Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway will step down from his post on Sept. 15, after more than a decade as the face of one of the most prominent lobbying groups for the Adirondack Park. Communications Director John Sheehan confirmed the change for the Explorer on Monday and said Deputy Director Rocci Aguirre will be the interim director.
Janeway, the 59-year-old Keene resident, has led the council since May 2013. He replaced Brian Houseal, who also served as the council’s executive director for just over 10 years. In 2021, Janeway’s salary was about $165,000, income tax records for the Adirondack Council show.
Janeway said he is not retiring, but it was the right time for a transition.
“It’s a good point for me to step back and take a break,” he told the Explorer in an interview. “What I do next is not yet determined,” but he said he will maintain his connection to the Adirondacks.
Previously, Janeway served for six years as a regional director of the Hudson Valley and Catskills for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Janeway also worked for The Nature Conservancy’s New York branch as director of government relations, and was former executive director of the Hudson Valley Greenway Conservancy, according to his LinkedIn page.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Executive Director and lead the Adirondack Council team since 2013,” Janeway said in a news release. “With many partners we have accomplished a lot and we can all be proud. I have valued and appreciated the support and generosity I have received from countless individuals along the way.”
The two accomplishments Janeway is most proud of in his tenure include the work he and the council team members have done to bring a “larger, more diverse constituency of people engaged in and advocating for the Adirondacks than ever before.” He also believes there’s a greater awareness for challenges that face the park still, including climate change, a growing number of visitors, harmful algal blooms and road salt. The more awareness there is of these issues, he said, the more likely they’ll be solved.
Sarah Collum Hatfield, chair of the council’s Board of Directors, said Janeway’s “strategic skills, his enthusiasm, his boundless energy have allowed the Adirondack Council to improve environmental policy and funding in Albany and Washington, while also improving the quality of life in the park’s 130 rural communities.” She highlighted the organization’s growth under his leadership, including the creation of the Forever Adirondacks Campaign spearheaded by former Sierra Club president Aaron Mair.
“Willie has been very good at reminding people in positions of power that the Constitutionally protected, ‘forever wild’ public lands of the Adirondacks belong to everyone,” Hatfield said in a news release. “He has reminded Governors, U.S. Senators and members of Congress that New York has a responsibility to protect the Adirondack Park. It really is a national treasure. He has also worked hard to reach out to community leaders around the park and hear their concerns.”
Charles Canham, senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, has been a board member of the Adirondack Council for 18 years. Canham said he would defer comments on Janeway’s impending exit “other than to say I think Willie has done just a wonderful job of building the council over 10 years.”
Canham will rotate off the board in May, but said he is proud of the “Vision 2050: Fulfilling the Promise of the Adirondack Park” document the Adirondack Council released outlining its hopes for the approximately 6-million acres of public and private lands. It includes “three years of input from over 100 local, regional and national stakeholders and scientists. It responds to threats and opportunities with 250 recommendations to preserve ecology, sustain communities and improve park management,” according to a summary of the report.
“I’m sure there will be a national search to find a replacement for Willie; he’ll be hard to replace,” Canham said.
Janeway said the council’s board of directors will likely convene a search committee in the near future.
Janeway has deep family ties to the Adirondack Park. His family was among the original purchasers of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve in 1887. The now 7,000 acres of private lands have a foot traffic easement with the state to some of the most popular hikes in the eastern High Peaks region. Janeway had told the Explorer in a previous interview that each generation of his family, including himself, has been an AMR trustee and a member of the Ausable Club in Keene Valley. Janeway has hiked all 46 High Peaks.
“My family and I will always maintain a special connection to and appreciation for the Adirondack Park,” Janeway told the Explorer. “I will continue to paddle these waters, climb these mountain, camp in these woods, and support the Adirondack Council and others working to restore and preserve the East’s greatest wilderness, for the benefit of everyone.”
The Adirondack Council is a nonprofit founded in 1975. It has a staff of 21 and a budget of more than $3 million, according to the council’s news release.