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New Erie Canal Harbor Development Chairperson Named


Joan Kesner, formerly the Governor Kathy Hochul’s regional director for Western New York, will serve as chairperson for the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Board of Directors. The Governor appointed Kesner to the board and also recommended her as the next Chairperson of the ECHDC Board, which the board approved Monday. Leslie Zemsky, vice president and partner in Larkin Development Group, and Sam Capitano, business manager at Laborers International Union of North America, Upstate New York Laborers District Council, were also appointed to serve on the ECHDC Board. ECHDC is the state agency that supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside and the Outer Harbor in Buffalo and works to attract private investment and enhance the enjoyment of the waterfront for residents and visitors in Western New York.

“Joan Kesner is a dedicated and talented leader who will focus the state’s efforts to revitalize our economy, starting at the waterfront,” Governor Hochul said. “As we ramp up efforts to encourage visitors, developers and investors to the water’s edge, Joan’s collaborative spirit and hard work will ensure continued progress on the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s initiatives. I also welcome Leslie Zemsky and Sam Capitano to the board and am confident their expertise will be an asset to Buffalo’s waterfront moving forward.”

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Chair Joan Kesner said, “I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to continue the development projects that will bring more people to Buffalo’s waterfront. The waterfront and its development are a major priority of Governor Hochul’s and I look forward to working with her to transform this destination and continue the excitement, especially leading up to the bicentennial of the Erie Canal’s completion in 2025. I am excited to work with the talented and creative board and staff of ECHDC. We will work together to make our waterfront one we all can enjoy and be proud of. I thank Governor Hochul for this incredible opportunity and her strong commitment to Western New York.”

Kesner, a Western New York native, recently served as Western New York Regional Director for Governor Hochul advancing key regional projects and initiatives while representing the Governor at community events. Prior to that, Kesner worked in the New York Senate for more than 26 years as the executive assistant to New York State Senator William T. Stachowski where she managed grants and project development in the district. She participated in negotiations with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to arrive at a series of agreements that facilitated the 50-year operating license for the Niagara Power Project and understands the role of ECHDC. Kesner was also instrumental in advocating for water safety and worked to assist paid and volunteer water rescue units that respond to emergencies in Lake Erie, which led to the formation of Western New York and Ontario, Canada ALERT (Advanced Local Emergency Rescue Teams), and supported the first Erie County Sheriff’s helicopter. Kesner was also elected to serve on the Hamburg Town Board for more than 14 years. Kesner previously worked in the Erie County Clerk’s county clerk’s office, and subsequently as then-Congresswoman Kathy Hochul’s district manager from June 2011 to March 2012. Kesner attended Hilbert College and graduated from SUNY Empire with a degree in liberal arts. She lives in Hamburg with her husband and has two adult children.

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