SARANAC LAKE — Barbara Rice of Saranac Lake, who recently resigned from the Franklin County Legislature and state Adirondack Park Agency board, has been appointed as assistant secretary for economic development, supporting an adviser to the governor.
The news was broken Thursday morning at the APA’s monthly board meeting.
Reached by phone, Rice said there is no secretary for economic development. She will assist Lindsey Boylan, the deputy secretary of economic development and housing and special advisor to the governor.
Rice, a native of the Adirondacks and a Democrat, is a graduate of Saranac Lake High School and a partner in Rice Furniture, a third-generation business in downtown Saranac Lake. She served as a village trustee and a member of the Harrietstown Board of Assessment and Review. She was elected twice to the Franklin County Legislature and served on the state Fire Safety and Building Code Council as well as the APA Board of Commissioners. She has been involved in a number of local initiatives, including the village of Saranac Lake’s Downtown Advisory Board and Outdoor Movie Committee.
As chair of the county legislature in 2017, she had the opportunity to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“From my standpoint, the North Country has benefited a lot from his drive,” Rice said. Cuomo has pushed a number of projects for economic development in the Adirondacks and the North Country, such as the expansion of broadband high-speed internet service, which Rice has personally worked for.
Rice said she mentioned to Cuomo that “I would be interested if there was an opportunity of moving forward” in state government.
“In my work as a legislator, one of my key interests has been economic development,” she said. Rice holds a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh in business and economics.
“These high-profile projects get a lot of attention, but there’s a lot more than that that’s been done by the governor,” she said.
Rice described the interview process as “intense.”
“I went through a series of interviews over the course of a few months,” she said. “It was a process like any job interview, but on a different level.”
Rice and her husband, Chad McCarthy, will move to Albany but maintaining a house in Saranac Lake. McCarthy took a job working with BOCES in the Capital Region last year; their son Cal is 29.
“For me it’s the perfect time in my life to take this on,” said Rice. “I don’t have some of the responsibilities I had when I was younger.”
Rice, who began working in her new job last week, said she’s seen the burnout level in state government is very high, and she’s been given to understand the job is 24/7. She said she’s ready for that challenge, but leaving Saranac Lake and the county legislature gave her pause.
“I gave it a lot of thought. I really loved what I was doing,” she said. “But I’ll be doing it at the state level and still have some impact on the North Country.
“I’m coming from a unique background, as someone with experience on the local government level, as a local business owner and member of the local building council. I bring a unique perspective to Albany, and I think they were looking for that.
“The North Country is similar to many rural areas in New York state. I’m devoted to the Adirondacks, and that will not change,” she said. “This will give me the opportunity to give us someone at the state level who can give us a voice.”
Rice retired from the county and APA boards in May, and her new job was still a public mystery when the county board appointed Lindy Ellis of Saranac Lake to succeed her last week.