Sunmount director Laura LaValley of Tupper Lake is retiring

TUPPER LAKE — The director of Sunmount, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities facility in this town is retiring after three years at the job, and an acting director has been appointed in Albany.

Over a 32-year career with OPWDD, Tupper Lake resident Laura LaValley worked her way up to the top of the largest employer in the region.

While in the past, the director took care of strictly Sunmount, which is Clinton, Essex, Hamilton, Franklin, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, it has expanded to include the capital region’s too.

Sunmount employs, by village mayor and president of the Sunmount Board of Visitors Paul Maroun’s estimation, 1,800 people with an $85 million payroll.

“What an incredible experience it has been–a true pleasure to work with people who receive services and their families,” LaValley wrote in an email. “My life has been enriched beyond measure … I am humbled to have worked alongside so many of these great people.”

LaValley praised the dedication of all employees under her, saying they “demonstrate an incredible level of professionalism as they work each day to enrich the lives of those we support.”

“Laura did an excellent job. I’ve worked with all the directors since it turned over from the [Veterans Affairs] hospital and she’s the best,” Maroun said. “She cares about the clients, she cares about the staff, she cares about the community and she cares about the board of visitors.”

LaValley said she is leaving Sunmount and the capital region “in very capable hands.”

Maroun has been asked by OPWDD acting commissioner, Kerry A. Delaney, to sit on the selection board for a new director. Meanwhile, a deputy commissioner from Albany will take charge as acting director, assisted by Stefanie Dunham, the current deputy director.

It used to be that the deputy director would step into the lead administrative role, but now, according to retired Sunmount employee Dave McMahon, the director is appointed by officials in Albany.