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WANTED: The next generation of leaders

October 29, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

In order to become a community leader - on the local, state or national level - you don't need to be older than age 50. All you have to do is care.

If you care about other people, care about your community, care about the future of your planet, you qualify to become a leader. From the beginning of time, each generation of elder statesmen and women has passed the baton to the next generation.

Here's our message to the younger generations - from high school and college students to men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s - now is your time to pick up that baton and give back to your community.

Article Photos

Birk Albert
(Photo provided)

Even though it's election season, we're not just using the word "politician" here. Leaders come in many different forms. You don't have to be an elected official to become a community leader.


Birk Albert

Birk Albert is a 16-year-old junior at the Lake Placid High School. As a Koyukon Athabascan Indian originally from the village of Ruby, Alaska, he recently became active as an Earth Ambassador with United National Indian Tribal Youth, attending the National UNITY Conference and the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C. in July. He is also active with the high school's Ecology Club and is helping to organize the next Adirondack Youth Climate Summit in November.

Next week, Albert is heading back to Washington, D.C., this time attending the White House Tribal Nations Conference as a Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Ambassador. The conference, hosted by President Barack Obama, will give leaders from the 567 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with high-level federal government officials and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.

How does a Lake Placid teenager go from scoring goals on the Blue Bomber soccer field to representing the youth of his native tribe at the highest level of American government? It's simple. He cares, and he's compelled to do something about it.

Let's not forget some of the local politicians who have made headlines in the Lake Placid News because of their young age and their dedication to the community.


Jason Leon

Jason Leon is a trustee on the Lake Placid village board. During the day, he is a third-grade teacher at the Lake Placid Elementary School. Originally from Wilmington, he graduated from the AuSable Valley Central School in 1994 and North Country Community College in 1997. He earned a bachelor's degree in mass communications from SUNY Plattsburgh and a master's degree in elementary education from Grand Canyon University. In May 2009 at age 32, Mayor Craig Randall appointed him to the village board to two months after losing his first election bid, replacing Peter Roy after he resigned.

"Jason's energy, enthusiasm and interest in serving made him a logical choice, and his widespread support among the younger voters in Lake Placid contributed to his strong showing during the recent election," Randall said at the time. "As we look to the future of Lake Placid, we must provide opportunity for younger residents to be heard and to become active in village government. Together with my fellow board members, we welcome Jason to the table."


Brendan Donovan

Brendan Donovan, 21, is a 2011 graduate of the Lake Placid High School and is currently a sophomore at SUNY Potsdam studying biochemistry. He's also on the Nov. 3 ballot, challenging North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi in his re-election bid.

"I really disagree that candidates will run unopposed," Donovan has told the News.

No matter how the election turns out, we're pleased to see younger political candidates get involved. They're our future leaders. Donovan said he's excited to show people under 40 that they can run for office and make a difference locally. We encourage more younger people to run for office. If elected, he wouldn't be the youngest politician we've had in the Olympic Region. That honor goes to a Wilmington resident.


Roy Holzer

Roy Holzer is the co-owner of the Little Super Market and other businesses in Wilmington. While he's no longer the town supervisor, he could be considered the unofficial "Mayor" of Mayberry, as he calls his hometown. After the Wilson Farms convenience store closed, shutting down the only gas station in town, he and his wife Becky invested in the risky gasoline business and installed pumps at their grocery store complex. Why? He cares about his town.

In 1983 at the age of 18, Holzer was elected as a councilman on the Wilmington Town Board. He was a senior at the Lake Placid High School at the time and was recognized by the New York State Board of Regents as the youngest town councilman in the state. He prepared for the position by getting involved in the community by attending town board meetings starting at age 14, attending school board meetings and voicing concerns about budget cuts to business classes, and volunteering for organizations such as the library, historical society, youth commission and fire department. Holzer served as a councilman for 12 years, from 1984 to 1995, before voters elected him town supervisor during this third attempt. He served as supervisor for four years, from 1996 to 1999, before retiring from town politics at the ripe age of 34.


Elise Stefanik

Elise Stefanik of Willsboro was elected to represent the 21st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 - when she was 30 years old. She was born on July 2, 1984, two days before Roy Holzer - serving in his first term as town councilman - turned 19 years old. Stefanik knew in high school she wanted to make a difference in government. She got into Harvard and was editorial page editor of the Harvard Crimson. Then she went straight to the George W. Bush White House, and now she's our congresswoman. She represents the future of our nation.


To the youth of our region, when people say, "You can't be a community leader because you are too young," tell them, "That's exactly why I'm getting involved. It's my turn."



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