In a virtual celebration, three [current and former] NEIWPCC staff and commissioners were honored by the EPA during its 2020 Merit Award ceremony.
Ron Poltak, former NEIWPCC executive director for more than 35 years, is the 2020 recipient of the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” Environmental Merit Award. Poltak began his career in public service in 1968, as an intern in the New Hampshire state planning department while still an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire. Poltak joined NEIWPCC, first as a commissioner for the state of New Hampshire in 1979, and then as its first executive director in 1983. He retired in 2017.
Poltak dedicated his career to establishing NEIWPCC as an indispensable vehicle for “creative collaboration across states and disciplines, supporting clean water in every New England state and New York.” His early work in developing the deep relationships with place-based programs, such as the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program endure to this day. Poltak’s career was featured in the March 2017 issue of Interstate Waters.
NEIWPCC connections continued with three Lifetime Achievement Awards presented to Alicia Good, Colleen Hickey, and posthumously, to Robert Stankelis.
Alicia Good served as a NEIWPCC commission member, representing the state of Rhode Island from 2000 until her retirement in 2019. Her career spanned 37 years with RIDEM, having “a long record of advancing watershed-based approaches to water resource protection and restoration. She “dedicated her career to environmental protection and never wavered in her commitment to do what was best for the long-term protection of water resources.”
NEIWPCC Information Officer, Colleen Hickey was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Hickey is the education and outreach coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP), a program partner of NEIWPCC.
Over her 27-year career with LCBP, Hickey’s work has focused on “informing and involving the public around issues central to the restoration of Lake Champlain. Hickey has “supported efforts to educate our next generation of stakeholders,” and to “help new and experienced audiences understand Lake Champlain management issues.”
“I am incredibly proud and pleased to be able to congratulate Alicia , Ron, and Colleen on their respective honors,” said NEIWPCC Executive Director, Susan Sullivan. “Each of them have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of our environment. They, along with Robert, have been inspiring stewards and their awards are well deserved!”
Robert Stankelis, former manager of the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for 15 years, received the award posthumously. Stankelis served as a member of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program’s (NBEP) steering committee. NBEP is a program partner of NEIWPCC. He will be remembered as an “extraordinary leader” whose “legacy will be felt locally and within the reserve system for decades.”
The EPA New England’s Environmental Merit awards is a longstanding platform to honor those who have made outsized contributions to environmental protection efforts benefiting communities and ecosystems across New England.
The Ira Leighton “In Service to States” Environmental Merit Award is presented to those individuals or organizations who have made significant strides in facilitating state and federal partnerships through innovative sustainable solutions addressing critical environmental challenges in New England.
Lifetime Achievement Awards are reserved for individuals who “have demonstrated a continuous commitment to environmental and public health issues leading to measurable, lasting and sustained results over a career or a lifetime.”