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UP CLOSE: Mousaw treasures her life in Lake Placid

December 26, 2014
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Peggy Mousaw always took her father's lessons to heart.

Thanks to him, she knows how to rebuild a car engine, and she can build a house. In fact, she's built five.

"My dad used to say, 'When it comes down to it, the bottom line is you're always by yourself,'" Mousaw said. "When I was 16, my dad sat me down and told me I need to take care of yourself, and do whatever I have to do career-wise or education-wise, so I can rely on myself and never have to rely on anybody else. He didn't want me to be a housewife. Considering the fact that we're talking 1976, that was a pretty progressive statement to make to your daughter."

Article Photos

Lake Placid Village Treasurer Peggy Mousaw at her office in Lake Placid
(News photo — Shaun Kittle)

With five siblings, Mousaw's family wasn't small, but it pales in comparison to what her parents grew up with. Her dad, Lee, had 18 siblings, and her mother, Jane Green, had 17.

Mousaw said those large families meant her parents grew up poor. That's why Lee taught her how to fix and build things, and her mother taught her how to cook.

"Parents always want better for their kids than they had for themselves," Mousaw said. "My mother and father always wanted more for their kids. Both parents were proactive in kids getting an education because they were in that cycle of big families with no money."

When Lee was growing up, all of his clothes were hand-me-downs, and gardening wasn't a hobby - it was necessary for feeding the family.

Lee was offered a scholarship for architectural school while attending Canton High School, but he gave that up to help his family.

"My dad lied about his age at 16 and went into the Army because his father had died, and he still had five brothers and sisters at home who were younger than him," Mousaw said. "He went into the military and sent the checks back home to his mother to raise his five younger brother and sisters."

In the Army, Lee worked as the motor vehicle sergeant, which meant he was in charge of all of the motor vehicles in his battalion. After that he married Jane, who grew up in Colton. That's where the couple raised Peggy and her brothers and sisters.

Mousaw recalls her childhood with fondness. The lessons, and difficulties, that were part of her upbringing shaped her into the determined woman she is today.

Those lessons paid off, too. Mousaw was the first woman in her family to graduate from college. The bachelor's degree in economics she earned from SUNY Potsdam started her down a winding road that eventually led her back to the North Country, where she now works as the treasurer for the village of Lake Placid.

"I was coming up here every year for 20 years to ski at Whiteface before I landed this job," Mousaw said. "To convert from having to rent hotels to ski for the weekend to actually having a job here is amazing. There's not one day that I don't get up and come to work in the morning and look at those mountains and think about how beautiful it is to live here."

In the mid-1980s, Mousaw worked as the assistant dean of business services for North Country Community College. Shortly after budget cuts eliminated that position she moved to Dexheim, West Germany, to volunteer with PAC Administration.

Mousaw loved Germany, but she didn't stay. In 1987, she returned to the U.S. to take a job as a management consultant with INC 500 firm in Chicago, Illinois.

That job had her traveling to major cities from Los Angeles to New York every week, and no two weeks were quite the same.

"I went in and set up accounting systems, taught them how to bid and be profitable in their line of work," Mousaw said. "Basically, I taught people how to run their businesses."

Mousaw enjoyed the work, and she liked visiting so many different places, but being in big cities struck a chord - she began missing life in the Adirondacks.

"I prefer an environment like this over the city," Mousaw said. "Until you get away from here, you don't really appreciate here. For me not to have to go through the two hours of traffic, that bottleneck to get to work. If you need something, people will stop and help you. You can't buy that. I feel that way about the whole North Country."

When her dad was diagnosed with cancer, Mousaw took a job as the deputy budget officer for St. Lawrence County in 2001 to be closer to him. Lee died on July 15, 2005, but Mousaw stayed in the area. In 2008, she accepted her current job as village treasurer.

Mousaw likes to keep busy. When she isn't working her day job, she serves on the New York State Government Finance Officers' Association, the North Country Regional Council, the New York State Municipal Electric Utilities Association as an audit committee member, and the Local Government Annual Conference Planning Committee at SUNY Potsdam.

Mousaw is also a volunteer race official with the U.S. luge team.

"It is absolutely huge what it takes for a family to get their kids to the Olympics," Mousaw said. "Until their kids get to a certain level and get recognized, those parents are the ones paying to get their children to that point, and it can take years. They start the kids when they're 12 or 14, and some of the athletes you're looking at now aren't medaling until they're 28. That's a 14-year investment, which is absolutely amazing."

Like the mountains and her childhood, Mousaw sees the luge team as an integral part of the region she calls home.

It wasn't easy growing up here, but for Mousaw, that isn't what matters most.

"We had little in material assets, but we had a lot of love," Mousaw said. "My brothers and sisters feel the same way that I do. They don't know where they'd be if it wasn't for my dad pushing us."



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