By Gwendolyn Craig
The Adirondack Council announced several staffing changes on Tuesday, including that Megan Phillips, a senior policy advisor for energy and the environment to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will become the organization’s vice president for conservation.
Phillips replaces Raul “Rocci” Aguirre, who left the Adirondack Council for a new role as an executive director of Scenic Hudson.
Phillips has been with the Cuomo administration in her advisor role since November 2018, overseeing 12 state agencies, according to an Adirondack Council news release. Willie Janeway, the council’s executive director, said Phillips’ government work and familiarity with the Adirondack Park “gives us great confidence in her leadership qualities.” Phillips will move to the Adirondacks from Albany and start at the council’s Elizabeth town office on March 15.
The council, as part of his new hire, is expanding its conservation team. Jackie Bowen, the council’s conservation assistant, is getting promoted to associate conservation director. Charlotte Staats, a former Adirondack Mountain Club trail crew leader, will serve in Bowen’s former role. Phillips will oversee the all-female team and work closely with Julia Goren, who is leading the council’s long-term planning.
Phillips said she was thrilled to join the organization.
“My goal from the outset will be to ensure that the Council’s policy and program recommendations are guided by the best available science,” Phillips said in the Council’s news release. “I’m looking forward to working closely with the Council’s partners to explore strategies that will have an enduring positive impact on the Park’s world class natural resources while supporting the sustainable growth and vitality of its communities.”
Phillips’ background includes master’s degrees in conservation biology and water resources management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Women in Leadership certificate from Cornell University. She moved to New York in 2014 and served in various educator roles for water-quality and invasive species issues for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. She also worked for the Department of State in the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, according to the release.
Aguirre, who had been with the Adirondack Council for about a decade, said in an email that he was ready to seek out a new challenge to an executive level role. Scenic Hudson, an environmental organization based out of the Hudson Valley, was a good next step, he said. It is also the region where he grew up. But Aguirre will miss the Adirondacks.
“You never know, sometimes you have to leave the place you love to be able to come back on your own terms down the road,” Aguirre said.
He remains on the Adirondack Diversity Initiative’s core team of volunteers. Goren will take over for Aguirre as an Adirondack Council representative on the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group, which is tasked with providing crowd management recommendations to the state.