St. Lawrence County has always had the land, the water, and the business. But County Chamber Executive Director Pat McKeown helped turn them into a destination. McKeown said her goodbyes Thursday as she heads into retirement. Matt Jarchow shares that while she's leaving, her legacy will remain.
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- Pat McKeown planned on being the county chamber's executive director on an interim basis. That was in 2007.
"I was only going to fill in like two weeks, a month, two months, until they got someone permanent," McKeown said. "I've been having so much fun at this job I just decided to stay."
The North Country is glad she did. Business leaders across the area felt McKeown's positive attitude and optimism. They said her work made St. Lawrence County a destination despite tough economic times.
"GM unfortunately is closed, ALCOA is winding down, and you're seeing the smaller businesses start to gain traction," New York Power Authority's Jill Winter said. "A lot of bed and breakfasts, a lot of people making this a destination."
"She's created new initiatives like the FISHCAP that has brought in thousands of people, thousands of dollars to help local businesses grow," SUNY Potsdam Director of Strategic Alliances John Wicke said.
McKeown calls the FISHCAP program her biggest accomplishment. It positions the county as the fishing capital of the world. The program helped bring the BassMaster Classic and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the area. She said she used what the county gave her.
"We may not have General Motors but we have fish," McKeown said. "We may not have Reynolds Metals but we have rivers, lakes and streams. And we have things in those waters. So why not use what we have and grow the economy that way?"
With her work finished, McKeown now turns to the future.
"I've been working 59 years of my life," she said. "I don't have a clue what the future holds."
But just like her job that was supposed to be temporary, McKeown expects everything to fall into place.