Get to Know Mark Hall

By Susan Sweeney Smith

What brought you to the Clifton Fine region? 

My parents moves to Star Lake in the 1950’s for employment and stayed. Dad was an electrician at the J and L Steel iron ore processing facility. My mom was an RN hired prior to the Clifton Fine Hospital’s opening and she served as CEO for around a decade in the 1970’s and ’80’s. Luckily for me, my parents were already here and raised me here.

How long have you been here?

I have lived in Star Lake for 50 of my 62 years. I lived on Long Island for eight years and spent another four in Saratoga Springs. I moved back to Star Lake in 1993 and I’ve been here ever since. The years way opened my eyes to the big world out there and were very important to my personal and professional development.

What keeps you here?

My parents were here until recently so that was a big deal for me. I have friends who have become family There truly is no place like home and for me Clifton Fine is home. What could be better than living in the Adirondack Mountains?

What professional roles have you held here?

Lots actually. I ran a small business for about 14 years. I was on the Fine Town Board for 12 years and became the Town Supervisor for 8. I have also served the community as a hospital board member.

I have tried to connect our region to the larger Adirondack North Country and have served on the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. Currently I am an Adirondack Park Agency board member, A St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency board member (appointed by the County Legislature), a Development Authority of the North Country board member (also appointed by County Legislature. The alphabet soup for community revitalization and development.

What was your first volunteer activity? How did you get started?

My family are volunteers. My grandparents both lived at the Boy Scout Camp Portaferry in Fine and Pitcairn. My grandfather was the caretaker and my grandmother was the cook. I spent the vast majority of my weekends growing up helping out there — doing whatever was need to keep the camp operating smoothly. I learned how to make decisions in the moment and fix many issues – from water lines to broken steps to getting a truck runnning. I learned how to put my finger in the dike and also how to stop the dike from leaking the first place. I was never paid for any of that work but it gave me a lot of experience that I use to this day.

How many volunteer jobs have you had here?

I was the basketball coach at Clifton Fine and although I did get a stipend it was more like volunteering.

I was intrigued when Chris Westbrook started up the Clifton Fine Economic Development Corporation in 1997 to address many of the complex issues facing our economy. With the loss of industry and economic base, the CFEDC played a critical role.

I took the lead for CFEDC on the J & L property clean up. The community had identified that project as a priority during community visioning and outreach sessions. I hoped my knowledge and professional connections might help accomplish success. I did not realize it would persistence and determination for nearly 20 years before the “Hazardous Material Abatement and Building Demolition” project would come to fruition. The blue buildings along Route 3 finally disappeared during 2019 due to the collaboration, cooperation of commitment of so many people.

Being involved in this project and the organizations I mentioned earlier helps raise awareness for the needs of this region. Being involved keeps us on the map.

Why do you volunteer?

Small towns and villages and hamlets don’t have the staff or capacity to achieve many of our goals to improve our overall quality of life. I know that volunteers are needed to fill gaps or projects would never get done. I believe in leading by example….

Who Inspires You Here and Why?

Ron Frank was my first mentor. He was my high school teacher and basketball coach. He was the Town Supervisor for 24 years and was there when I was first elected to the Town Board. My four years under him on the Town Board prepared me for my time as an elected official.

Chris Westbrook quickly followed as a mentor. His passion and leadership provided for our community and he was very inspirational. He took me under his wing and introduced me to many state elected officials and others in positions to help our community. We ended up being a powerful team advocating for Clifton Fine.

Hope Dolan inspired me to get involved with the Town Board and local government. Her knowledge of how local government functions and her steadfast determination to see things done properly is admirable.

Patrick Kelly, CEO of the St Lawrence County IDA has a relentless desire to assist business and industry improvements in St Lawrence County. His passion to retain, improve and sustain success in businesses is commendable. He works many hours, many nights and after work hours that nobody recognizes – always working to assist businesses. I knew there was something truly different about him when we would often talk late into the night trying to find ways to save the Newton Falls Paper Mill. He also stepped up to assist with the J & L property remediation. We are lucky to have this talented friend working on economic development in St. Lawrence County.

Carrie Tuttle, Chief Operating Officer at the Development Authority of the North Country, is a dedicated engineer with the unique ability to solve complex problems and manage projects to successful completion. Her calculated and deliberate strategies have a proven track record second to none. I work closely with Carrie and her many skills have been instrumental on numerous projects.

Rick Rusaw is a fire department and emergency squad volunteer has a great head on his shoulders and is a great leader in those services.

Our plethora of volunteers. To name a few: Sherm and Annette Craig, Susan Sweeney Smith, Anne Hynes, Allen Splete, Bob Raymo, Clint Farnsworth, Walt Todd, Phil and Lorraine Giardino, all the members of the Fire Departments and Rescue Squads.

What are the best memories you have of the region?

Clifton Fine is a terrific area to be raised and grow up in. The people – residents, seasonal residents and visitors make it special.

I loved playing basketball here in high school. The team was great and I was and All Northern player.

It was a great day when that Greyhound bus filled with community members drove down to the County Legislature meeting to bring home the point that we should not be ignored about the needs at the J & L site.

I loved the day John Friot from WWNY-TV was here when the first blue building came down at J & L.

I will never forget the day Ron Frank told me he was stepping down as Town Supervisor. He told me that I was ready. I guess I was.

What do you hope for the future here?

I hope our history is never forgotten.

I hope we always have the Clifton Fine Hospital for medical needs.

I hope our volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squads thrive.

I hope we continue to strive for improvements to our quality of life.

I hope we can return the area to the vibrancy of the 1960’s and 1970’s when we were known as the affluent area of St Lawrence County and the Adirondack Park.

I hope the next generation continues to build our communities.

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