APA board OK’s Rice as executive director starting March 8
By Gwendolyn Craig
In executive session, the Adirondack Park Agency voted to accept Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Barbara Rice as the agency’s new executive director.
Rice, a Saranac Lake native and former agency board member, will replace Terry DeFranco Martino, who announced last month she was retiring. Martino’s last day with the APA is Feb. 23, though Martino did not attend Thursday’s meeting.
Rice’s start date is March 8. Chairman John Ernst said Rob Lore, deputy director of regulatory programs, will take on the executive director duties in the interim.
“Personally, I’ve served with Barb on this board,” Ernst said. “I am very pleased to have her return as executive director, and I think those feelings are shared by everybody on the board.”
Adirondack Explorer first reported Hochul’s choice of Rice in January. The Hochul administration widely distributed a press release following the APA’s meeting.
In the release, Rice said she was honored and grateful for the appointment and thanked Martino for her service.
“I am also thrilled to return to the Adirondacks and my hometown of Saranac Lake,” Rice said. “I look forward to working with the members of the board as well as the excellent staff at the agency on the important issues facing the Park.”
Ernst reported the board’s vote after a rare executive session kicking off the virtual meeting.
Chris Cooper, attorney for the agency, said the session was “for the purpose of discussing personnel matters of a particular person.” The board voted unanimously to go into executive session, logging out of the current meeting to go into a different virtual video chat.
Kristin O’Neill, assistant director of the Committee on Open Government, said discussion of the employment history of a particular person and matters leading to the appointment of a particular person are appropriate for such closed-door meetings.
About 30 minutes later, the board returned to the public meeting. Ernst announced action taken by the board to accept Rice as the new executive director.
Art Lussi, an APA board member, prompted Ernst to tell the public the vote was unanimous.
O’Neill said, “If a topic is permitted to be discussed in executive session then a public body may vote in executive session, as long as it is not a vote to appropriate money.” O’Neill did not think this was likely in the APA’s case, as the executive director salary is part of the APA’s budget.
Rice, who served on the APA board from 2016 to 2018, was most recently an assistant secretary for economic development in the state’s executive chamber under both former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Hochul. She was also the first woman chair of the Franklin County Legislature in 2017. The new executive director also has a business background as a third-generation furniture store owner in Saranac Lake.
Board members also took time on Thursday to thank Martino for her decade in the position. Martino had made her retirement announcement at the end of last month’s meeting, after all board members’ comments were finished.
“She was utterly without flinch, no matter what was coming down the road,” Ernst said. “She was calm. She was judicial. And she did a great job for a long time.”
Megan Phillips, another new APA hire as deputy planning director, said Thursday that Martino had made myriad contributions to the agency. Phillips, former vice president of conservation for the Adirondack Council, said she was “grateful to be part of the APA family and looking forward to doing great work with you all.”