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A Tribute to Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson

A Tribute to Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson April 9, 2024
In 2012, Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson (left) championed the first mandatory boat inspection program east of the Mississippi to protect Lake George from aquatic invasive species.
In 2012, Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson (left) championed the first mandatory boat inspection program east of the Mississippi to protect Lake George from aquatic invasive species.

Dennis Dickinson, who died on April 3 at the age of 77, campaigned for the office of Lake George Town Supervisor in 2011 on a platform of generating new tourism dollars.

And yet when aquatic invasive species threatened to upend the lake’s ecosystem, he was the first, if not the only, official to propose closing the lake to all but local boats,  regardless of the impact to the tourism economy.

In 2012, Dickinson joined other local government officials and representatives of environmental protection organizations at Million Dollar Beach to call upon New York State to impose a mandatory boat inspection program for boats trailered from other waterbodies – which, if adopted, would become the first such program east of the Mississippi.

And when the state balked at the costs, his town board was the first within the Lake George watershed to vote to share the costs of a portable boat washing station, which would enable the Lake George Park Commission to prove to Albany that an inspection program was viable.  

Here was one example – if examples are needed – of how direct Dennis could be, in both word and deed, regardless of the political consequences.

Another: in 2022, Dennis refused to endorse Elise Stefanik for re-election to Congress, despite the fact that he was a Republican and that all Republican elected officials were expected – indeed, required – to endorse “Elise.”

“I don’t want to be associated with her,” Dickinson told the Lake George Mirror. “Anyone who supports Trump, especially after January 6, 2021, can’t be altogether sound.”

As Ryan Moore, the former Warren County Administrator recalled, “Dennis was simultaneously self-effacing and assertive. His opinion mattered and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors respected him. He had a magical ability to make everyone – even his adversaries — grin merely at the thought of what he might be thinking and what he might say.”

Dickinson’s support for a mandatory inspection program was also an example of how he maintained his commitments –  and the protection of the environment was foremost among them.

Although his career as a surveyor and engineer exposed him to a bureaucratic process that made him skeptical of the Adirondack Park Agency and sometimes sympathetic to the arguments of the land use agency’s opponents, Dickinson never doubted that the Adirondacks needed and deserved protection.

He once said that he took up surveying, which he did after earning degrees from Syracuse and RPI, because “it allowed me to be out of doors.”

Lake George was especially important to him. He and his wife Andi “grew up on Lake George,” he once said. “We’ve lived here all our lives and we’ve witnessed its degradation. it’s easy for us to see the difference because we know what it used to be.”

And his interest in Lake George’s environment – and in working with local environmental protection groups, with which he claimed to have had negative experiences in the past – did not stop with protect keeping invasive species from the lake.

According to the Lake George Association,  Dickinson “assumed a leadership role in every major lake protection initiative, from invasive species to road salt reduction to combatting the infiltration of excess nutrients from aging and failing septic systems and preventing harmful algal blooms.”

“Dennis’s commitment to Lake George was unwavering,” said Assemblyman Matt Simpson, who served with Dickinson on the Warren County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the state legislature.

“He understood the symbiotic relationship between environmental preservation and economic prosperity. He understood the lake was the greatest asset. You damage the lake, and you damage the community and economy alike. You have to take care of the lake.”

In the early 2000s, the Lake George Mirror and D.L. Dickinson Associates Land Surveyors and Professional Engineers both occupied office space in a building owned by the late Rolf Ronning, a developer with whom Dennis worked from time to time.

That professional proximity gave us an opportunity to become friends, as well as an insider’s view of Dennis’ campaign for Supervisor in 2009, his first since the 1980s, when he served two terms as a Democrat.

Still a Democrat in 2009, he was defeated by the Republican incumbent Frank McCoy by 18 votes. Two years later, he challenged McCoy in the Republican primary and won easily, taking office in 2012.

In retrospect, it seems that Dickinson accomplished most of what he promised to do if elected Town Supervisor: share and consolidate services with Lake George Village; promote outdoor recreation as an economic asset; recruit a director of planning; capture parking revenues for the town; and stimulate the redevelopment of legacy properties.

Promises made, promises kept; further examples of Dennis meaning what he said and saying what he meant.

We attended the ceremonies in which his brother-in-law, retired judge David Krogmann, swore Dennis into office in 2012 at the former Warren County Courthouse on Canada Street, a place whose history endeared itself to him.

If he could not, as he wished, return the courtroom to its original function, it was not for lack of trying.

Dennis is survived by his wife, Andrea, and his sons Garth and Devin and their families, as well as a brother, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews. As news of his death spread throughout the community, town and village officials recalled his contributions, from the multi-million dollar Gateway Project to the 10 million dollar Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and friends spread reminiscences through social media. At the Warren County Municipal Center, flags were lowered to half mast at the direction of the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty.

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