The beginning of 2022 ushered in a management turnover at the Adirondack Park Agency, the state organization charged with long-range planning of the 6-million-acre public and private park.
In mid-January, Megan Phillips became the APA’s deputy director of planning following the retirement of Rick Weber. Phillips came from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration before serving less than a year as the Adirondack Council’s vice president of conservation.
Within the same week of Phillips’s hiring announcement, APA Executive Director Theresa (Terry) Martino told commissioners she would be stepping down after a dozen years as the agency’s top staffer. A few days later, the Explorer learned Barbara Rice would replace Martino and confirmed that with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. Rice is a Saranac Lake native; she was also the first female chair of the Franklin County Legislature. She had been an Adirondack Park Agency commissioner from 2016 to 2018. Rice started with the APA in March.
As this year’s legislative session wound down, Hochul made an historic appointment to the APA’s board with Benita Law-Diao becoming its first Black commissioner. A spokesperson for Hochul said Law-Diao’s appointment would “add a powerful voice for diversity and inclusion” and build on Adirondack Park Agency’s “core mission of preservation and smart growth development for New York’s most treasured asset.” Hochul also reappointed APA Chairman John Ernst to the board and Commissioner Art Lussi. The state Senate confirmed the appointments.
The Explorer also sat down with Ernst to talk about his Adirondacks legacy and what he hopes to accomplish at the APA next year.
Nonprofit leadership changes
Outside the shuffle of state workers, some prominent Adirondack Park groups prepared for change. Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said he was looking for a deputy, who could eventually replace him. The inaugural director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, Nicole Hylton-Patterson, left the park for a leadership role at a nonprofit in New York City. The search for a new ADI director is underway. — Gwendolyn Craig