Adirondack Council leader will step down

Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway discusses the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 at Heart Lake in Lake Placid in August 2022. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

ELIZABETHTOWN — Willie Janeway announced he will step down as the Adirondack Council executive director at the end of this summer, leaving after a decade of advocacy, growth and conservation at the Adirondack Park’s largest environmental advocacy organization.

Council staff described Janeway as a “relentless networker” and a powerful leader who oversaw legislative and environmental victories for the lands and communities of the Adirondacks.

The Council said its deputy executive director Raul “Rocci” Aguirre will become the acting executive director.

A press release from the Council says Janeway said he felt the time is right for a transition.

“As I step back from the Council, I call on others to step forward,” he said in a statement. “I am not retiring.”

His resignation will be effective Sept. 15, which he said should provide time for a smooth transition. He said he hopes to stay in touch. He said it has been “an honor and a privilege” to lead the Council since 2013.

“Today, the Adirondack Council is strong,” he said in a statement. “Our mission remains as vital and relevant as ever. … The Council is in the perfect position to help the Park realize this vision, working with state agencies and other stakeholders, using an ever-evolving set of tools and strategies developed by the excellent staff.”

The Council described Janeway as an “avid Adirondack 46er” who has enjoyed climbing all 46 High Peaks he works to protect. Janeway said his “grandparents’ grandparents” first began hiking in the Adirondacks in the 1800s.

“My family and I will always maintain a special connection to and appreciation for the Adirondack Park. I will continue to support the Adirondack Council and its efforts to restore and preserve the East’s greatest Wilderness, for the benefit of all.”

Board chair Sarah Collum Hatfield called Janeway an “inspirational and dynamic leader” who oversaw “a period of significant growth” for the Council.

“It is not possible to fully express our gratitude toward Willie or our appreciation for all he has done for the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council over the past ten years,” she said in a statement. “His strategic skills, his enthusiasm, his boundless energy have allowed the Adirondack Council to improve environmental policy and funding in Albany and Washington, while also improving the quality of life in the park’s 130 rural communities.”

Hatfield said Janeway has worked to bring political attention to the Adirondacks from all over New York and the nation.

“Willie has been very good at reminding people in positions of power that the Constitutionally protected, ‘forever wild’ public lands of the Adirondacks belong to everyone,” Hatfield said in a statement. “He has reminded Governors, U.S. Senators and members of Congress that New York has a responsibility to protect the Adirondack Park.”

Council Communication Director John Sheehan said staff numbers grew from 13 to 21 and the budget doubled from $1.5 million per year to more than $3 million per year.

“As the organization grew, so did its support,” Sheehan said in a press release. “The Council balance sheet and donor family have never been stronger.”

Ever since 2016, Shaheen said the Council has received a four-star rating from the leading independent charity-rating service CharityNavigator.com — the highest it gives out. And the quasi-endowment Forever Wild Fund increased from $2.5 million to more than $9 million.

“Janeway is a relentless networker,” Sheehan said in a statement.

The Council said he was effective at securing state money for the environment; securing voter approval for state constitutional amendments; securing voters to oppose constitutional conventions which could put the state constitution’s “forever wild” clause in jeopardy; opposing decisions by state and federal leaders that could hurt the environment and working with state and federal leaders to create policy that would protect it.

“When diplomacy and networking were not enough, Janeway led the Council to court,” Sheehan said in a statement. The Council has joined lawsuits against both state and federal government and has been successful in courts at times.

The Council said Janeway oversaw some of its other goals, such as introducing the Essex Farm Institute or Forever Adirondacks Campaign, to advocating for new state land management task forces, motor-free waters, expansion of public lands, mandatory boat inspection for invasive species, reducing road salt, moving oil train cars from preserve lands, and supporting federal laws to curb acid rain and smoke in the Adirondacks.

“Last fall brought the greatest breakthrough on climate, as Janeway joined U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on the shore of Heart Lake in the High Peaks to celebrate the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act,” Sheehan said in a press release.

He also worked for the people who enjoy the public lands, Sheehan said.

“Janeway was among the first group of volunteers to convene what would become the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, and later, the New York State Adirondack Diversity Initiative,” Sheehan said.

Last year, the state Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus chose the Adirondacks for its annual retreat. Janeway and environmental justice pioneer Aaron Mair, a former Sierra Club chief who leads the Forever Adirondacks Campaign, celebrated the “first victory” for the campaign.

Hatfield lauded Janeway’s efforts to produce the Council’s second 30-year plan with recommendations for the protection and management of the Adirondack Park — “VISION 2050: Fulfilling the Promise of the Adirondack Park” — an effort directed by Julia Goren.

Janeway said while he appreciated the praise from the staff, he accomplished nothing on his own.

“I offer my heartfelt gratitude to the Adirondack Council donors, advocates, board members, volunteers, and dedicated staff and interns with whom I have had the pleasure to work with over the past decade,” he said. “Together, with partners, the Council will continue to shape the future of New York’s Adirondack Park and preserve the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondacks, for current and future generations.”

Janeway joined the Adirondack Council staff team in February 2013, replacing Acting Director Diane W. Fish, who took over for Brian Houseal, who had been executive director from 2002 until 2012. Before this, Janeway had been a regional director for the state Department of Environmental Conservation for six years, overseeing the Catskill and Hudson Valley region.


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