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Board & Staff

Board Members

Margaret Kennedy, Chair

Otsego County Representative – In Otsego County, Meg participates in many Board committees, including chairing both the Administration Committee and the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. She is also the Vice-Chair of the Otsego County Soil and Water Conservation District, and a Board Member of the Solid waste and Environmental Concerns Committee. Meg is also a Board Member for the Direct Marketing Corporation of Otsego County and the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District. Meg is also the Chair for both the Oneonta Agriculture Committee, the governing body for the Oneonta Farmers’ Market, and the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market Governing Committee, the governing body for the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market.

Meg has worked for her family owned and operated horticulture business in Mount Vision, NY her entire life.

Celeste Friend, Board Member

Celeste Friend was raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the youngest of seven children. She went to UMass Amherst, graduating in 1988, and then moved to New York City. She got her PhD in Philosophy from the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center. Her dissertation was on political theory and focused on the nature of trust between persons and in society. After graduating in 1995, she took a series of full-time but temporary faculty positions in Athens, Ohio, Oxford, Ohio, and Cleveland, Ohio. In 2002, she took a teaching job at Hamilton College, where she taught full-time until 2007. In 2008, she took a position as an Adjunct lecturer at SUNY Poly. She teaches two courses every semester: World Religions and Science, Technology, and Human Values.

In 2017 Celeste worked as a volunteer for Anthony Brindisi’s campaign for Congress.

In 2019 she ran for City of Utica Common Council and was sworn in on January 1, 2020.

Celeste forges jewelry and designs, produces, and markets her own line of sterling silver Jewelry. Celeste is a member of Cazenovia Artisans, a cooperative art galley in Cazenovia, NY.  In 2016, she was hired as the Executive Director of Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival in Norwhich, NY.

Brian Thomas, Secretary

City of Utica Representative - Brian has served as the Commissioner of Urban & Economic Development for the City of Utica since August 2011.  In that position, he also serves as the Executive Director of the Utica Urban Renewal Agency, the real estate arm of the City that is responsible for ensuring that properties taken by the City through tax foreclosure are marketed, sold to appropriate buyers and returned to the tax rolls promptly.  As Commissioner, he also serves as a Board member of the Utica Harbor Point Development Corporation, responsible for the redevelopment of Utica’s Harbor Point in concert with National Grid and the State of New York.  Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, he served for over nine years in the Department as Director of Urban Planning.  During his tenure with the City of Utica, Brian led the effort to develop a new comprehensive plan, the City’s first since 1950, which incorporated a broad public outreach effort.


Before joining the City of Utica, he was a Planner and Senior Planner for the City of Rome for nearly ten years.

A member of the American Institute of Certified Planners since 2003, Brian holds a Bachelor of Architecture Degree from New York Institute of Technology and a Master of Urban & Regional Planning Degree from the University at Albany.   Together with his wife, Brian also owns the Bagg’s Square Café.

Karl Gustafson, Board Member

Montgomery County Representative -  Karl currently works in the Department of Public Works in Montgomery County as Special Programs Manager.  Karl has served in Government and Association Management throughout his career.  As former head of the Fulton County as well as Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce, as well as head of the Fulton County Big Brothers Big Sisters program, the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency, the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, he provided years of leadership.  Karl has worked in City, County and State government including roles as the Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Amsterdam, leader of the New York State Main Street program and Marketing Director for the New York State Canal Corporation, among others.

Over the years, Karl has served on a countless number of Boards throughout the State, and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of the United Way of Montgomery County, the Canajoharie Falls Cemetery Association, the George Landis Arboretum and the New York State Snowmobile Association, in addition to his role as Chairman of the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank.

Karl is married to the former Kim Keator and they have one son, Karl Gustafson Jr.  They reside in Canajoharie New York and have a second home on beautiful Chautauqua Lake where Karl is a proud member of the Vikings Lodge, the Lakewood Rod and Gun Club and the Fisherman’s Association.  Karl is also a strong supporter of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame where his grandfather is an enshrined member of the Hall.

Karl enjoys stock car racing, snowmobiling, golf and spending time on the lake.

2014-2015: Economic Development Specialist in the Montgomery County Business Development Center.

2015-Present: Director of Labor Management for Montgomery County.

Stephen Yerly, Board Member

Otsego County Representative – Stephen has served as the City of Oneonta’s Code Enforcement Officer since March 2017. In his role he supervises all building, planning, and zoning processes within the city and serves as the flood plain manager. In this role he has worked to strengthen the Oneonta community through code updates, zoning revisions, and updated legislation that promotes walkability, the growth of greenspaces, and preservation of historic architecture.


 Prior to joining the staff at Oneonta, Stephen worked as a general contractor owned and managed a custom architectural finishing company in his home state of Illinois. In his free time, Stephen has rebuilt an early 19th century farmhouse in Delaware County and is currently renovating his current home in Oneonta alongside his wife, Sara, and two rescue dogs. Stephen serves on the Vestry of St. James, Oneonta, and is the pipe major of Leatherstocking District Pipe Band.


 He graduated with a BS in Geography and Urban Planning from SUNY Oneonta, and is currently completing his Masters in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in land use law and historic preservation at the University of Florida. His prior education includes a BA in Fine Art from Monmouth College, IL.


Zachary Thompson, Board Member

Zach was raised in Schoharie County and received a BA from Colgate University in 2007. He has worked with the Schoharie County Planning and Development Agency and Office of Community Development Services since 2007. He currently lives in Schenectady with his partner, Mary Alexander (Curator of Education & Public Engagement at the Arkell Museum), and their feline roommate. His passions include basketball, cinema, and skateboarding.

Former Board Members


Christine Brown

Citizen Advisory Board Representative - Christina L. Brown is a partner with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP. Ms. Brown has more than 20 years of experience in all areas of intellectual property, with substantial first chair litigation experience. She has represented clients in litigation in the patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets arenas, acting as trial counsel in both bench and jury trials. Ms. Brown has broad experience in appellate proceedings, including litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.


She is frequently invited to speak to groups in the business and legal fields, at such forums as entrepreneurs' groups, international trade associations, the Licensing Executives Society, and law school classes. Presentations include "Spies, Lies, and Dies: Protecting Technology at Home and Abroad"; "Intellectual Property: How to Know It When You See It"; and "How to Select an Expert Witness".


With her family, Ms. Brown also owns and operates a farm, raising registered Angus cattle. She previously served for many years as a volunteer Court-Appointed Special Advocate, advocating for the needs and interests of abused and neglected children. She has a long interest in learning about the reasons for, and working to combat the effects of, blighted properties in communities. In addition to her involvement with the GMVLB, she also serves as a board member of Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful. In her (vanishingly) spare time, she enjoys hiking and repurposing old objects. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, and a Juris Doctor degree. She is registered to practice in Illinois and New York, and before multiple state and federal courts.

John Stephens

Herkimer County Representative - John P. Stephens was born and raised in Ilion NY, graduated from Ilion Central School, and attended Paul Smith’s College where he received an Associates degree in Forestry and is pursuing an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Corning Community College. While attending Paul Smith's, John worked seasonal at the Herkimer County Department of Highways and upon completing his degree went to work there full time as a Jr. Civil Engineer, working there from 1984-1993. He left in 1993 to accept a position as a Firefighter/EMT with the Little Falls Fire Department, retiring due to injury in 2002 as a Sr. Firefighter/EMT. John also worked as a Telecommunication Dispatcher at the Herkimer County 911 Center from 2000-2002.

John successfully ran for Trustee in the Village of Ilion in 2006, was Deputy Mayor from 2008-2010, Public Safety Commissioner from 2006-2014, and successfully ran for Mayor in 2010.  He ran for Herkimer County Legislator in 2014 and is currently serving his third term representing the people of District 6 and is Chairman of the Administration/Veterans Affairs Committee and Vice Chairman of the Highways Committee.

John has served in many committees and boards in his professional life including, but not limited to, Vice President and President of the Little Falls Firefighters IAFF Local 2966 Union, Vice President and President of the Herkimer County Conference of Mayors, Vice President and President of the Northern NY Parade and Drill Teams Captains Assoc., Life Member of the Northern NY Firemen's Assoc., Served on the Herkimer County Sewer Board, is a Director on the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District (MVEDD) Board, served as a Lieutenant, Captain and Deputy Chief of Ilion Hose Company No. 1, President of Ilion Hose Company No. 1, President of the Ilion Volunteer Fire Dept., served on the Alumni Board of Paul Smith’s College, currently serves on the Alumni Council of Paul Smith’s College, coached Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football, was a USA Hockey Level III Ice Hockey Official and is a Level 4 Certified USA Hockey Coach, coaching in various organizations for 27 years, retiring in 2009. John currently serves on the Village of Ilion Municipal Utilities Board and is the Safety Officer and Secretary of the Frankfort Fire Department.

John is an Eagle Scout, obtaining that rank in 1984 with Troop 8 in Ilion, is a member of the Kamargo Lodge Order of the Arrow and served on the Staff of Camp Russell. His two younger Brothers are also Eagle Scouts with Troop 8.

John lives in Ilion with his wife of 30 years, JoAnne, is a cancer survivor, and is 8 years cancer free and going strong! John and JoAnne have two grown children, Ashley (who is expecting their first Grandchild, a Girl, Makenna) of Frankfort and Kyle (who will be getting married in October of 2019), of Charlotte, NC.

Judy Pangman

Otsego County Representative - Judy has been the City of Oneonta’s Community Development Director since October, 2016.  She is administering a mix of Downtown Revitalization Initiative programs, housing, economic development, and infrastructure grant programs for the City.  Prior to working for the City, she worked for years in the private sector managing large infrastructure projects, and writing and administering grants and projects for municipalities throughout the region. She serves on the board for the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship (CADE).  She has written a manual to help small, rural communities undertake municipal wastewater projects, and published a book about mobile chicken coops.  Judy graduated from SUNY Cobleskill and resides on her family’s large grass fed beef farm in Carlisle in Schoharie County.

Shane Nickle

Schoharie County Representative - Shane grew up in New Castle County, Delaware and worked with his carpenter father on various construction projects including rehabilitation and new construction.  Shane attended college in Maine and Vermont and graduated from Johnson State College in 1993 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Political Science.  Shane attended graduate school at the University of Arizona and then moved to Esperance, NY in 1995 to finish graduate work at the University at Albany SUNY.  He graduated in 1996 with a Masters in Regional Planning.


Shane was an intern at the New York State Emergency Management Office and worked as Planner and Senior Planner at the Schoharie County Planning and Development Agency from 1996 - 2015.  Since 2015, Shane has been Schoharie County’s lead in the Office of Community Development Services.  The office assists communities with land use needs and helps administer various projects in economic development, hazard mitigation, natural resources, and housing.  He is the Chair of the Schoharie County Trail Association and works on developing the Cobleskill Creek Trail and other recreation trails in the County.  He is a member of the Rotary Club of Cobleskill.


Shane resides in Richmondville, NY with his wife of 23 years, Sarah, and their 19-year old son, Zack.  Sarah works part time for the Village of Cobleskill as a deputy clerk and part time for the Schoharie County Rural Preservation Corporation.  Zack attends SUNY Oneonta and is pursuing a dual major in Environmental Sustainability and Geography.

John Piseck

Herkimer County Representative - After serving on the Board of Directors for a number of years, and serving as Chairman for two, John was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency on _2/18_.  Since that time, he has continued to aggressively market all of the available properties in each of the Herkimer County Business Parks.  In fact, most recently it was announced that the Frankfort 5S South Park is now at capacity.

Prior to his position at the IDA, John was employed for the last 17 years as Sales Engineer for CTM Corp. This small precision machine shop in Frankfort, NY is credited with machining parts that were used on the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander and the Mars SAM Project.  During his time there, John was able to institute new import and export Agreements with Israel and Canada.

From 2008-2011, John served as a District Legislator on the Herkimer County Board of Legislators.  In this position he organized the first Economic Development Day in the county and implemented a new marketing approach targeted at enticing companies to this area.

John sits on a number of boards including Herkimer College Quality Assurance Program Advisory Board, MVCC Manufacturing Program Advisory Board and served on the Board of Directors for the Creative Core.  He is a former member of the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District and was also instrumental in getting Herkimer County to be considered a part of the NYS Tech Valley.

Alicia Terry

Alicia graduated from Gilboa Conesville Central School and then attended Cornell University, where she graduated with a B.A.Sc. in Animal Science and Ag Economics in 1985. In 1995, Alicia worked as the Director of Planning for the Schoharie County Planning and Development Agency. In January 2020, Alicia was elected as the Town Supervisor of Gilboa, NY.


Ray Johnson

Herkimer County Representative - Ray has represented District #5 as a Herkimer County Legislator since 2012. Ray is very involved in County Legislature. He supports the taxpayers as well as contributes to county organizations and community life. Ray’s priorities include continued work at keeping property taxes at a low rate; working on providing the county with a cost-effective jail/alternative to accommodate both the inmates as well as the employees; works closely with Remington Arms Union Workers/Mind Workers in meeting their needs and concerns in regards to the new SAFE ACT. Ray currently serves as Chairman on the County's Properties Committee, Chairman of Veterans and Administration, and serves on the County's Planning and Development Committee, Ways & Means, and the Human Resource Committee. He is also a Director of MVEDD (Mohawk Valley Economic Development District), serves on the Board and is Treasurer of Catholic Charities, Herkimer County Community College's Paramedic Advisory Committee, and the Ilion Flood Mitigation Committee. Ray is a small business owner, owning his own construction company for over 35 years.

Steven R. Wilson

Schoharie County Representative - Steve became Schoharie county's first County Administrator on November 1st, 2015. He retired after 30 years' service in a wide variety of federal agencies including Defense, Commerce, EPA, GAO and Homeland Security. His work has primarily focused on financial management including budgeting, contracting and grants management. His most recent position was as Director of Internal Financial Reporting and Analysis for the $13.5 billion, 61,000 employee Customs and Border Protection agency. Before his federal service, Steve worked as a journalist in Virginia and Rochester, New York. He has degrees from Virginia Tech and the Rochester Institute of Technology. He lives in Schoharie.

Current Staff


Tolga J. Morawski, Executive Director

Tolga has served as the Chairman of the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District (MVEDD) Land Bank Committee since 2014 and Executive Director of the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank (GMVLB). Originally working in the field of engineering, he entered the world of historic preservation and community development to save a local architectural landmark, the former Universalist Church of the Messiah (now known as Unity Hall), from demolition. In 2011, he founded Historic Fort Plain, the predecessor to Mohawk Valley Collective, Inc. (MVC), and currently serves on the Board of the MVC. He was raised in Fort Plain, just two blocks away from Unity Hall. He earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from Alfred University


Tolga is an active member in the Mohawk Valley community, with involvement in Friends of Fort Plain, Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful (KMVB), and many other local volunteer and service organizations.  He has worked to support historic preservation in numerous ways, including serving as Vice President of the NYC chapter of the Society for Industrial Archaeology; documenting architectural landmarks for SUNY and others, and advocating for preservation of open space, farmland, and important landmarks in his free time.


Tolga is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Architectural Art History from CUNY.

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