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Friedlander resigns from Lake Placid’s Ironman Task Force

LAKE PLACID — A member of the Ironman Task Force resigned Friday, July 29, citing what she saw as a lack of consideration of the committee’s recommendations in the most recent Ironman contract and a lack of respect from her colleagues.

The Ironman Task Force, created under the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in the summer of 2021 to evaluate the economic and community impacts of the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon, met for the first time since this year’s triathlon on July 29. Shortly after the meeting started, one of the task force members, Trish Friedlander, read a statement explaining why she planned to leave the task force.

Friedlander said she didn’t feel respected by her fellow task force members — she said some members had called her ideas “stupid” or “ridiculous” — and she felt that the task force’s recommendations were considered only as an “afterthought” in the 2022-24 Ironman contract. She said she would resign from the task force, or what will become a general “events council” under the new contract, since the contract was signed with “little consideration” for the “hardworking committee.”

The 2022-24 contract requires ROOST to “transition the Ironman Task Force to a general Events Council for ROOST for all large-scale regional events review. The existing task force will transition to this newly focused Events Council reviewing all pertinent regional events.” The contract also states that WTC “shall make reasonable best efforts to address and resolve any known recommendations regarding community relations from ROOST’s 2021 and 2022 Ironman Task Force.”

Friedlander’s resignation came less than two weeks after she attended a meeting of the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees and asked board members not to sign a three-year contract extension with Ironman. She was surprised that the village board was voting to support a three-year contract; she said it was her understanding as a task force member that the Ironman Group would first spend this year fulfilling the committee’s recommendations before local municipalities would consider signing on to more races. The village board ultimately voted to authorize Mayor Art Devlin to sign the contract extension.

ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence said she understood that some members of the task force hadn’t supported the possibility of a three-year contract extension, but she said the task force was an “advisory committee.”

After the committee makes recommendations, those recommendations then move on to the North Elba Town Council, the village board and ROOST, who ultimately “make the decision on how we move forward” with the recommendations” she said.

Lawrence said the task force’s recommendations are being taken seriously. She added that she felt it was equally disheartening and stressful for her to be called “underhanded” and “undermining” by some members of the task force. She encouraged the task force to work together to be more respectful of one another.

After Friedlander finished reading her statement to the task force, several committee members encouraged her to reconsider her decision. At the end of the task force’s meeting, Friedlander reiterated that she planned to leave the task force.

The contract

Friedlander’s resignation sparked discussion about the 2022-24 Ironman contract.

Member Bryan Magnus said he would’ve loved to have a contract with “legally binding” requirements on the Ironman Group, but he didn’t think it was realistic that a small town could “strong-arm” corporate lawyers into that kind of a contract. He believed that Ironman would do its best to fulfill the task force’s recommendations to continue to have a relationship with Lake Placid, and he thought village and town officials were looking to the task force to verify that those recommendations were being taken seriously.

Lawrence said that, as ROOST COO, she worked closely with Ironman Regional Race Director Dave Christen and the Ironman Group on the contract. She said that while the contract is “one-sided” and “Ironman-oriented,” she thought the group was receptive and responsive to the task force’s recommendations.

ROOST CEO Jim McKenna on Friday said that in the 20 years he’s worked with Ironman, this was the first “real attempt” he’s seen Ironman make to address some issues locals have raised with the race.

Committee member Cheri Cross asked why the towns of Jay, Keene and Wilmington weren’t included as parties in the contract. McKenna said that while ROOST approached each of those towns’ boards about the contract, he thought the possibility of including those towns in the contract could be addressed in the future.

Lawrence said she spoke with Christen after race day and explained that the Ironman Group couldn’t just “pop in two months before the race and make connections with the community.”

“This is really (about) creating strong relationships and supporting the communities outside of Ironman,” she said, noting that the Ironman Group was one of the sponsors of Wilmington’s Mountain Music Fest this past weekend.

The Ironman Task Force plans to meet again this September to further discuss its recommendations for next year’s race, and Lawrence said she’d be willing to hold an additional task force meeting to review the 2022-24 contract for committee members who are interested.