As I sit in my home office in Oneonta, it saddens me to announce that I will be leaving OCCA after seven and a half years to take a new position. During graduate school, I read about a small county located at the edge of the Mohawk Valley, the edge of the Catskills, and just north of the Southern Tier called Otsego County. I learned how a small, dedicated group of activists and environmental organizations beat back the threat of hydraulic fracturing. The savviness and intelligence of these dedicated folks made me hope and pray that I would have the opportunity to work with them in the future.
I saw OCCA’s job opening for an Environmental Planner while I was in the “oh my god I’m graduating, where will I work?” stage of my graduate education. I applied for the position online-thinking I would never get the job. A few months later, by some stroke of luck, fate, or divine providence. I was hired. The organization saw something in me that I did not see. As soon as I stepped in the door in 2014, I committed myself to doing anything I could do to advance the organization’s mission.
My job involved working with communities, citizens, community organizations, local, state, and federal agencies to thoughtfully plan for the growth of communities while protecting Otsego County’s natural resources. My travels took me to many towns, villages, and cities large and small. I was introduced to people of all differing beliefs, values, and interests. The prevailing theme I noticed in each community I went to was an overarching sense of welcoming and a passion for protecting their home.
To deliver its services and carry out its program, OCCA’s small staff had to get creative and have a strong relationship. Over time, I felt and continue to feel that my OCCA compatriots Board and Staff represent an extension of my family. This strong bond has served us well as we continue to take on larger and larger projects. It is my hope that this tight bond between staff and board will continue into the future.
When I look back on my tenure with OCCA, I feel like I have left the planning side of the organization in a better spot than when I started. Working with staff, we were able to secure new municipal partners, develop numerous plans, expand our range of services into watershed protection, and are rapidly expanding into the field of climate resilience. Most importantly, the community, as a whole has a new energy around smart growth. I cannot attribute this latest development to myself, but I feel that I contributed a little bit of juju or direct outreach to engage folks in the County about planning issues.
I owe OCCA something profound-the proverbial launch of my career. It is a debt that I feel like I have not repaid in full. Therefore, while I am leaving the organization, it is my firm commitment to ensure that OCCA will be able to transition the field of planning to a fully capable, intelligent candidate. I wish the organization prosperity and joy in the coming years.