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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early in his term that he'd be creating a set of "regional economic councils" to build plans for funding economic development across New York, from the ground up.In the summer of 2011 he finally announced some of the details of the program, to be led by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. The ten councils each have dozens of members, and are charged with gathering input from the public and business leaders, and creating a plan by November 14. Those plans will be pitted against each other for a pot of $1 billion in grants, incentives, and tax relief from various state agencies. The winners will get more funding, the losers will get less.But other details - like whether funding will be available past the initial term, and who will serve on the board that decides who wins and who loses - have not been released.The Innovation Trail is looking for your feedback about what your regional economic priorities are, and what you want your community to look like once the councils have completed their task.

Capital Region economic council: Who's in charge

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Marie Cusick
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WMHT
Members of the Capital Region economic council, including co-chair Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (center).

The Innovation Trail is taking a look at the members of the governor's regional economic development councils.  Here's what we found.

Methodology

Our reporters brought back short biographies of the folks behind the councils, including campaign contributions in the 2010 gubernatorial election (courtesy of public filings at the State Board of Elections).

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), at our request, retrieved data about the state lobbying expenditures of council members' employers from a database that they created using Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) information.  The also retrieved the party enrollment of council members, where available, from a database that they compiled based on FOIL'ed information (that's accurate as of October of 2010). Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG was instrumental in pulling this information together.

See an error, or want to add more?  Let us know.

And without further ado, here's who's who in the Capital Region.

Regional Co-Chairs

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is the current president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., as well as the former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Since 2009, she has served on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Her academic background is in a theoretical physics. She was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by RPI in 2010: $10,339
  • Registered Republican

Michael Castellana is president and CEO of SEFCU, the largest credit union in the Capital Region and the seventh largest in New York State. He received his undergraduate degree and MBA from the University at Albany-SUNY.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $1,000 - Cuomo
  • No party affiliation

Council Members

Joseph Raccuia has served as president and CEO of Finch Paper LLC since 2009. The privately held paper mill is based in Glens Falls, N.Y. and is one of the largest employers north of Albany, with about 750 workers. Raccuia has more than 20 years in the paper industry, including six years as president and CEO of SCA Tissue North America. He joined the board of directors for the Business Council of New York State in July, 2011.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $2,000 - Cuomo
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Finch Paper in 2010: $82,068
  • Registered Republican

Gary Dake is the president of Stewarts Shops convenience stores. His family founded the company in 1945. It’s based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and has 328 locations in upstate New York and Vermont. According to Dake's executive profile on Bloomberg BusinessWeek,  he is a board member or chair on the following organizations:  the Town of Greenfield Center Planning Board, The Eddy, The Hyde Collection Art Museum, and the Saratoga National Bank and Trust Company. He has been independent director of Arrow Financial Corp., since 2003.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • No party affiliation

Bill Hart is the controller at Irving Tissue Inc. The company has paper plants throughout North America including Fort Edward, N.Y. where they make paper tissue and towel products.  According to The Post-Star, in May 2011 the company completed at $150 million expansion at their Fort Edward plant, which received $1.9 million in state incentives.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Victor Abate has been vice president of Renewable Energy at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.  since 2005. Abate oversees wind and solar energy products and support services for the company. Previously, Abate was vice president of technology for GE Energy's power-generation segment, which includes gas, steam, wind, solar and hydro-turbine generators. He holds several degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His bio is online at the American Wind Energy Association.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by GE in 2010: $583,485
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Peg Murphy has worked as the corporate secretary/director of human resources for the Espey Manufacturing and Electronics Corporation since 1998. The company designs and manufactures military and industrial products at its 150,000 square foot facility in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Omar Usmani is an executive partner at Aeon Nexus Corporation, which is a consulting group in Glens Falls, N.Y. that works with both the government and private industry. In a January 2010 article in The Post-Star, Usmani talked about why the company relocated from Washington, D.C. to Glens Falls. In October 2009, Aeon Nexus received $145,000 from Empire State Development as part of then-Governor Paterson's Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund grants.  You can also read more on his LinkedIn profile.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Aeon Nexus in 2010: $59,800
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Karen Astorga is the founder and president of Plumb Engineering P.C., an Albany-based engineering consulting firm. According to its website, Astorga founded the company in 1991 and it now employs 17 people. You can read her LinkedIn profile here. Astorga also describes merging her company with another in a January 2010 article in The Business Review.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Ann Moynihan is the founder and president of Documentation Strategies Inc. and has worked there since 1981. The company provides information technology support for its clients and is based in Rensselaer, N.Y.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Documentation Strategies in 2010: $30,037
  • Registered Democrat

Linda Davis-Pedlar is owner of LDP Technical Consulting Services in Rensselaer, N.Y., which is a NYS-Certified Minority and Woman Business Enterprise (MWBE).  According to her LinkedIn profile, Davis-Pedlar is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute, with experience in the design and delivery of multi-year, multi-million dollar IT engagements. Her customers include public and private sector organizations in the Capital Region.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Christine Edgerly is the president of Adirondack Mechanical Services LLC. According to the company website it is one of the largest union millwright contractors in the state. They maintain machinery throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in various industries including, cement, pulp and paper, hydroelectric, environmental, chemical and medical.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Independence party member

Todd Erling is the executive director of the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation, which works to promote and preserve the agricultural industry. Erling is involved with a number of groups, which he lists in his online bio. They include Senator Gillibrand’s Agricultural Working Group, Congressman Gibson’s Agricultural Advisory Board, and the New York Agribusiness Development Corporation, among others. You can also read his LinkedIn profile here.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • No party affiliation

Jeff Stark is the president of the Greater Capital Region Building Trades Council, which is a labor union that represents construction workers.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

George Philip became president of the University at Albany-SUNY in 2009. There are currently more than 18,000 students enrolled in the school. Philip previously served as executive director of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSTRS) and as chief investment officer for the system. You can find his bio on the school's website.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by UAlbany in 2010: $387,924
  • Registered Democrat

Karen Bilowith is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, which is a philanthropic organization based in Albany that awards nearly $3 million dollars to nonprofits each year. She previously worked as president of United Way of the Greater Capital Region. Bilowith is currently on the Board of Directors for United Way of New York State and is a founding board member of the Women's Fund of the Capital Region.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Michael Tucker is the president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth (CEG), which is an Albany-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting private sector growth in the region. He previously worked as president of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation. Before that, he spent 25 years a principal for Mercer Companies, Inc. which is a real estate and energy development firm in Albany. His full bio is on the CEG website.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Center for Economic Growth in 2010: $68,837
  • Registered Republican

Dennis Brobston is the president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit consulting firm which works to grow the economy of Saratoga County, N.Y. Click here to see his public LinkedIn profile.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Linda Hillman has been the president of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce since 2001. The chamber has a membership of approximately 1,200 businesses representing nearly 47,000 employees. Hillman heads a staff of seven people, and she's charged with overseeing membership, member benefits, finance, strategic planning, and economic development. Click here to read her bio on the chamber's website.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

James Barba is president and CEO of the Albany Medical Center, which is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the state. According to 2010 statistics on its website, the center employs over 6,400 people and has 566 students enrolled in its medical college. Additionally, the Albany Medical Center Foundation Inc., is one of the largest fundraising organizations in the region.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Albany Medical Center in 2010: $193,691
  • Registered Democrat

Donald Gibson is the director of Greene County Bancorp Inc. and president and CEO its subsidiary, The Bank of Greene County. According to the company's profile on Bloomberg Business week, Gibson has been working for the Catskill, N.Y.-based bank since 1987 and has held his current position since 2007. He also serves as a director for the Columbia Memorial Hospital and Greene County Empire Zone Administrative Board. 

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Elected Officials

The regional council also includes a number of local elected officials. The “electeds” serve in an ex-officio capacity and are considered non-voting members of the council.

Michael Breslin has served as the Albany County Executive since 1995, where he oversees governmental services for the county's 304,000 residents. He is currently in his fourth term and has announced he will finish in 2011 and not seek a fifth. His complete bio is on the county's website.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Judith Dagostino is the current chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature. She took over as chair in April 2011, after her predecessor, Susan Savage, stepped down to take a position in Governor Cuomo's administration. The Troy Record reported that she's served with the legislature since 1998 and cites the creation of the county’s first Office of Economic Development and Planning as, "one of the highlights of her career."

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Kathleen Jimino was appointed as Rensselaer County Executive in 2001.  She also serves as co-chair for the Center for Economic Growth’s Local Government Council, and on the boards of WMHT (an Innovation Trail partner station), the Commission of Economic Opportunity,and the Community Advisory Board of the Academy for Character Education. You can read her bio on the county's website.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Thomas Wood took over as Chairman of the Saratoga Board of Supervisors in January 2011. According to a report about him in The Saratogian, "Wood is a former teacher and school administrator who has served with the town of Saratoga as the town historian and then as supervisor since 1992. He has two master’s degrees from SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Plattsburgh and has published two books on Saratoga."

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Roy Brown serves as chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Daniel Stec has been the chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors since January, 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile. He is also the town supervisor of Queensbury, N.Y. He served for over eight years as a lieutenant in the United States Navy. The Post-Star covered Stec when he took over as Warren County Chairman. You can also follow Stec on Twitter.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Wayne Speenburgh is the chairman of the Greene County Legislature.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

John Rymph is the Chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Jerry Jennings is currently serving his fifth term as mayor of the City of Albany. He previously worked as a teacher in and administrator in the Albany School Distrcit. According to his official bio on the city's website, "the Mayor has successfully established collaborative partnerships with New York State, the business community, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations that have produced new development projects representing more than $6 billion in new investment since 1994." According to the state board of elections, Jennings donated $750 to Cuomo's campaign for attorney general in 2006.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Gary McCarthy is currently the acting mayor of Schenectady and the city council president. He took over as mayor in April 2011 after his predecessor, Brian Stratton, left to become head of the state's Canal Corporation. The Times Union profiled McCarthy last spring, when he formally announced his candidacy for mayor.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Harry Tutunjian has served as the mayor of the City of Troy since 2004. He previously served as a Troy City Council member and later its president. He is also on the Board of Trustees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Click here to see his LinkedIn profile.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

For the membership of the other councils in the Innovation Trail's coverage area, check here.

WMHT/Capital Region reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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