Hochul selects Saranac Laker Barbara Rice to lead APA

APA set to confirm pick next month

Barbara Rice (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Gov. Kathy Hochul has selected a new executive director of the Adirondack Park Agency, Saranac Laker Barbara Rice, less than one week after current Executive Director Terry Martino announced her retirement from the role.

Martino, who made her retirement public at the agency’s meeting last Friday, is expected to finish her 12-year run with the APA on Feb. 22. APA Public Information Officer Keith McKeever said the governor selects and recommends executive director appointments to the APA, but the agency board finalizes the recommendation.

APA Chair John Ernst said in a statement that the board plans to finalize Rice’s appointment at its next meeting, which is set for Feb. 10 and 11.

“The Adirondack Park Agency is thrilled with the appointment of Barbara Rice as the next executive director of the Adirondack Park Agency,” he said. “We thank Governor Hochul for her continued strong support for this agency and the greater Adirondack Park Region.”

“Barbara Rice has decades of land use planning, local government administration and community development accomplishments which will greatly benefit the Adirondack Park and its communities,” Martino said in a statement. “It has been an honor to serve as executive director and I wish Barbara Rice great success as she undertakes this important role.”

Rice was not immediately available for comment.

Rice has served as the state’s assistant secretary for economic development since 2018. She was appointed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Her main duties in the Executive Chamber involved expanding broadband in underserved parts of the state and expanding cell service in areas that lacked coverage, according to Gov. Hochul’s press office.

Rice became the first woman chair of the Franklin County Legislature in 2017 — at the time, she was the first legislator from the southern end of the county in 20 years to be named Legislature chair. As a county legislator, she represented county District 7 from 2014 to 2018. Rice has previous experience with the APA, too, holding a spot as an agency commissioner from 2016 to 2018.

In a statement Thursday, Hochul touted Rice’s career background as an indicator of her commitment to and competency in protecting the natural and economic assets of the Adirondacks.

“Barbara Rice is dedicated to the North Country having had a distinguished career in local government and her previous role as an APA commissioner will serve her well in protecting this vital resource, and she will excel in her new role as executive director of the Adirondack Park Agency,” she said.

In the past, Rice has served as a Saranac Lake village trustee, as director of the Saranac Lake Local Development Corporation and as a member of the Harrietstown Board of Assessment and Review. She also worked full time from 2005 to 2018 as a managing partner at her family business, Rice Furniture, a more than 75-year staple on Saranac Lake’s Main Street.

Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun said he spoke with Rice on Thursday, and he recalled her saying that she’s excited about her new position and her return to the Adirondacks.

Maroun said Rice was the one who brought the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant check to Tupper Lake. He thinks as a representative of the North Country and someone who’s now in the “inner circle” in Albany, Rice “can help us get the word down into Albany” about Adirondack issues.

APA board member Art Lussi served as an agency commissioner with Rice. He said the APA board was lucky to have Martino’s leadership, and he thinks Rice is a “fantastic pick” to fill the executive director role because she’s well-versed in the environmental and economical issues in the park.

“I think she brings a lot of enthusiasm, work ethic, care,” he said. “She understands environmental issues as well as she does small businesses trying to survive in the park, and I think she will be an excellent leader.”

Lussi said that as commissioner, Rice was “kind of like a judge.” He said it’s hard to keep everybody happy when making decisions at the agency, and that Rice would listen to the environmental and economic sides of an argument before making her decisions. He also credited her with encouraging commissioners to get out in the field and look at prospective state land purchases before classifying their use.

State Assemblyman Billy Jones worked with Rice on the Franklin County Legislature, and he thinks she’ll serve the APA well.

“She’s intelligent, thoughtful and works hard,” he said. “… I think this is a great appointment for the APA and I think it’s certainly well-deserved, and I think the APA will benefit from having Barb’s expertise there.”

Jones highlighted Rice’s “deep roots” in the Adirondacks and said he thinks she’ll help the environment and prioritize making the Adirondacks accessible to “people of all backgrounds and from all over.”

He said that as legislator, Rice always put the needs of her constituents first and worked hard for the county, and as assistant secretary for economic development, he said she was “great to work with” and helped promote economic development priorities in the North Country.


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