Martens named ORDA board chair

LAKE PLACID — Joe Martens is returning as chair of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors more than 10 years after he left the position, and he said he’s ready to start the relearning process.

The state Senate confirmed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Martens for chair last week. Martens will replace outgoing chair Kelly Cummings, who’s served as ORDA board chair since 2020.

Martens has a history of working with ORDA, previously serving as board chair from 2007 to 2011 after being appointed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. He said he first became familiar with the authority at the start of his career through his work on the state Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, where he helped create budgets for state environmental organizations like the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Adirondack Park Agency and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. ORDA was often roped into those budgets, he said, and he was fond of the authority’s mission and aspirations.

Martens served as a DEC Commissioner from 2011 to 2015. He was the Deputy Secretary for Energy and the Environment from 1992 to 1994, and he was assistant secretary to former Gov. Mario Cuomo from 1990 to 1992. He’s also served as the director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance, a senior fellow at the Open Space Institute, the chair of the Environmental Facilities Corporation, and a member of the Energy Research and Development Authority board.

Martens also worked with the APA from 1986 to 1990, a position that brought him and his wife to Lake Placid. They built their first home here in 1988, but when Martens accepted his position as the state’s assistant secretary, the couple relocated to the Capital District. They didn’t want to part with their Lake Placid house, he said, but they couldn’t afford to have two homes. They rented their Lake Placid home out for more than 25 years, until Martens retired from state service and the couple could make their way back to the village. The Martens moved back into their first home in Lake Placid in February 2021.

Martens said that throughout his years of living and working in the Capital District, he saw positions like his work with ORDA as opportunities to come back and visit the area — he always wanted to come back here permanently.

“Anything that could bring me north, I regarded as a good thing,” he said.

Martens said he’s ready to get ahead of the “learning curve” that comes with returning to the board chair position he left more than 10 years ago. His initial goals are to make sure that incomplete ORDA projects are seen through and to prepare the authority and its venues for the 2023 FISU World University Games. He said he’s starting his role by attending the authority’s various meetings that are coming up over the next couple of weeks.

Martens said an ongoing goal — and challenge — for the authority is to maintain its Olympic facilities. It’s a full-time job for ORDA, he said, and he wants to help the authority maintain those facilities “in top condition” to accommodate public use and competitive sporting events.

“It’s a really busy, busy place,” Martens said of ORDA. “It’s fabulous, but it’s an ongoing challenge to maintain what we’ve got.”

The state has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into ORDA venue renovation and construction as Lake Placid prepares for the 2023 games, but Martens said that preparation goes beyond the games — he thinks the improvements to local Olympic facilities will continue to make Lake Placid a winter sports hub for future events.

“I think there are all kinds of opportunities to attract more events to ORDA’s facilities than ever before,” he said.

The state Assembly recently passed a bill that, if it gets through the Senate and is signed by the governor, would create a commission to try to bring the Winter Olympics back to Lake Placid and another municipality in the state. When asked about the bill, Martens said bringing the Olympics to Lake Placid would first require community input. Only then would ORDA take the possibility seriously, he said.

“That’s not just an ORDA decision,” he said, “that’s a state decision, a local community decision — everybody’s gotta be involved in that.”

The Olympics have grown in scale, too, he added, and he said it’d be “useful” to consider a regional partnership or a shared Olympics with Montreal. Events are what make ORDA tick, Martens said, but he thinks that’s in addition to the authority inviting the general public to its ski and other facilities.

Martens said he’s looking forward to returning to ORDA as board chair.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help the organization into the future,” he said.


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