Gov. Andrew Cuomo's nomination of Sherman Craig to a seat on the state Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners was approved by the state Senate Environmental Conservation Committee on Tuesday.
The nomination of the Wanakena furniture maker and former Rochester-area school teacher and administrator still needs to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee and the full Senate.
However, none of that has delayed his service, as Craig has already taken his seat on the APA board. He did so in November as part of a "recess appointment" agreement between the Senate and the governor. The Senate was not in session at the time. Now that it is, it has 20 days to act on the recess appointment before it expires.
Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, explained why Craig's appointment was "rushed" at the outset of Tuesday's committee meeting. She said the resignation of Curt Stiles as the agency's chairman last summer left the 11-member APA board with only four of its five in-Park seats filled. Little noted that the board, at the time Craig was nominated, was also about to begin its review of the Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, the largest project ever to come before the agency.
"It was really critical to the residents of the Park to have all five seats filled," Little said.
Craig's nomination has drawn support from both environmental advocates and local government leaders in the Park.
Little "heartily" endorsed Craig during Tuesday's meeting.
"My concern with the APA is that we balance the environment with the economy so that people who come to visit certainly have a wonderful experience, but the people who live there can also find a job and can raise their families there and try to have their children come back there to have some kind of job for them as well."
Craig actually lives in the district of state Sen. Joe Griffo, R-Rome, who also offered a strong endorsement of the first St. Lawrence County resident to ever serve on the APA board.
"He will bring the balance that's necessary," Griffo said, "a recognition of the importance to preserve and protect this beautiful Park we have but also to be cognizant of the needs of the region, because people live there and are a part of that community and we need to ensure that community has an opportunity to grow and prosper."
Craig told the committee that his experiences as an educator have "provided me many opportunities to work with groups of people with diverse opinions on important issues.
"My support by both the environmental community and the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages results from their experience with me and their belief that I will listen to all sides of an issue and try to find a balance that protects our beautiful Park yet recognizes the economic needs of our neighbors."
During a short question-and-answer session with the committee, Craig was asked what was the biggest issue facing the Adirondacks.
He said the Park is facing challenges from the outside, like invasive species and climate change. Within the Adirondacks, the biggest issue is finding a balance between economic development and environmental protection, Craig said.
Craig's nomination to a four-year term is expected to come before the Finance Committee and the full Senate next week.
The APA board is expected to make a final decision on the Tupper Lake resort project at its meeting next week.