ROOST names Kelleher its new president, CEO

Dan Kelleher (Provided photo)

LAKE PLACID — Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism officials Thursday, June 6 announced that Adirondack Park Agency Special Assistant for Economic Affairs Dan Kelleher will be the organization’s new president and CEO, taking over from Jim McKenna.

McKenna had the been the head of the tourism promotion agency, and its earlier incarnations, for 42 years. His last day on the job was Friday, May 31, he told the News week later, and he decided not to comment on Kelleher’s appointment.

“Jim was a terrific advocate for our region at the state level,” Kelleher said on June 7, “so I think that’s something I certainly hope to continue and expand upon.”

Based on the first floor of the Lake Placid Convention Center on Main Street, ROOST is the destination marketing and management organization for Hamilton and Essex counties and the communities of Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. That means promoting tourism to attract visitors, with the goal of boosting economic development, and destination management, which is designed to — as ROOST explains it — “bring together stakeholders to achieve the common goal of developing a well-managed, sustainable destination for visitors and a vibrant community for residents.”

“The job is really implementing the mission, which is to leverage tourism to drive benefit for our local residents,” Kelleher said. “So I think there’s a lot of markets that we can penetrate to try to expand the market and bring tourism, not just in Lake Placid, across Essex County as well as our other service areas.”

Kelleher said ROOST’s role in destination management is imperative.

“The whole purpose of this job and the whole purpose of economic development is to improve people’s lives,” he said. “So if we’re not making sure we’re doing that, checking in with the public to make sure that they’re getting the value, then we’re not achieving our mission.”

Kelleher’s goals include setting the foundations to attract new hospitality and investment, particularly in southern Essex County and the Champlain Valley. That would involve studying the market and putting together pitch decks for investors.

“At the same time we’re doing hospitality development, we have to be doing housing development,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand, so we need to study that demand and articulate it to developers so they can start investing in our region with confidence and build up new housing so we can keep our schools filled and our communities vibrant.”

About the CEO

Kelleher, 37, lives in Lake Placid with his wife Kaila. He’s been at the APA for more than 12 years.

Growing up in the town of Bethlehem southwest of Albany, he earned a dual bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh in environmental planning and management and geography. He also holds a master’s degree from Cornell University in regional planning with a minor in real estate finance.

“I really wanted to learn the business side of things so I can understand how the world works and how to make a difference,” he said.

Kelleher’s career track in economic development was influenced early in life by his grandfather, who grew up in the Bronx, and his father, who grew up in Utica.

“So I grew up with a deep understanding of the industrialization of our upstate region and what’s happened across update New York,” he said. “I always wanted to be in economic development and business, trying to implement strategies that are private-sector driven to generate value for residents of our state.”

Prior to working for the APA, Kelleher served as the business development manager for the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District, where he helped attract over $43 million in private residential development and assisted in the recruitment of three high-growth technology firms.

At the APA, his accomplishments include assisting in the entitlements of more than $700 million in real estate development projects, establishing two programs to assist communities with economic development planning and serving on numerous local and regional economic and community development committees.

Kelleher is also involved in businesses outside of his day job, starting two global enterprises based in the Adirondacks.

“Like many Adirondackers, we built ourselves a little side hustle,” he said. “That’s Adirondack Field. Right now, it’s not a huge lift of our time.”

Adirondack Field is an American-made apparel company at which Kelleher has overseen product, positioning and marketing strategies that have generated sales in 37 states. He is also a co-founder, chief financial officer and board member of Create Orthotics and Prosthetics, an angel-backed medical technology firm.

Kelleher is also active in the community. He has volunteered as chair of the Adirondack Health Foundation, vice chair of North Country Community College, chair of Tendercare Tot Childcare Center, treasurer of Barkeater Trails Alliance and board member (ex-officio) of Adirondack Health.

Hiring process

In the fall of 2023, after McKenna announced that he would retire in the spring, ROOST formed a search committee of past and present board members to lead the hiring process. With a national search firm, SearchWide Global, they received applications from 20 candidates from across the country and interviewed eight.

“The board is grateful for the strong foundation built by James McKenna during his tenure,” ROOST Board of Directors Chair Nick Politi said in a statement. “We are excited for our organization to continue this positive momentum under the leadership of Dan Kelleher. This decision positions ROOST for continued growth and success, working towards our mission ‘to enrich the lives of residents and visitors by creating a tourism economy that sustains itself over time — economically, socially and environmentally.'”

In a press release about the new CEO, Chandler Ralph, vice chair of ROOST’s Board of Directors, spoke about the interviewing process.

“Dan presented market opportunities and strategies he believes can be capitalized upon to generate new visitation across the region,” she said. “Dan’s commitment to growing and leveraging tourism’s impact to generate quality of life and service provision improvements for Adirondack residents is inspiring. We look forward to benefiting from his leadership.”

In the same release, search committee chair Sarah Wilson spoke about hiring SearchWide Global for finding McKenna’s replacement.

“The search committee brought on the talent of a professional search firm to give national reach to the posting in order to find the best-fit candidate for our organization, and therefore, our communities,” she said. “The committee was very impressed with the talent and enthusiasm of all applicants interviewed. Candidates were evaluated based on their ability to steer ROOST into its next chapter, build upon the foundation of previous leadership, and serve the needs of the region and its stakeholders. Dan Kelleher comes with a working knowledge of the Adirondack region and a strong business background, from which our communities will benefit.”

As president and CEO, Kelleher will report to the ROOST Board of Directors on all aspects of organizational operation and will be responsible for leading the overall organization to meet and exceed the stated goals and objectives of ROOST’s strategic plan. He will begin the job on July 15.

Starting at $1.44/week.

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