Wilmers Exits ESDC as State Development Agency Turmoil Continues

The shifting ranks at the state’s main development arm, the Empire State Development Corporation, continues as the agency’s chairman, Bob Wilmers, is resigning after a year in the post, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. The move adds to the tumult at the agency—which oversees billions in subsidies and private development projects in the state—as its CEO, Marisa Lago, jumped ship on June 5.

The reasons for Mr. Wilmers’ departure are unclear, for now, though there was rancor between him and Ms. Lago. That, in turn, caused some officials and executives in New York City to be frustrated with the Buffalo-based banking executive, who has long advocated for more attention to upstate New York. The agency has been the subject of much criticism lately as it doesn’t seem to have a defined role amid the economic downturn, particularly downstate; its leaders do not seem especially close to the governor, as previous leaders have been; and it, frankly, hasn’t been very busy development-wise. Thus the implications of Mr. Wilmers’ departure may not be all that significant at this point.

The Buffalo News got the Wilmers story first, which has been kicking around the rumor mill since mid-May.

Of course, the turmoil at the ESDC doesn’t seem that significant in the context of the rest of the chaos gripping Albany. It’s not clear who is in charge of the State Senate; the governor has said he’s not leaving the state; and the stacks of bills that usually get acted upon at the end of a legislative session are sitting around unmoved.

Update 5:55 p.m.

The governor’s office just put out the release, officially announcing his resignation. The governor is proposing that Dennis Mullen, the new CEO who, until last week, was the agency’s upstate president, become the chairman as well. This would reconsolidate power in one individual, as it was bifurcated by Governor Spitzer between upstate and downstate, and again by Governor Paterson between a chair and a CEO. The consolidation requires approval of the legislature. 

ebrown@observer.com Wilmers Exits ESDC as State Development Agency Turmoil Continues