20 Under 40 recipient Jared Thisse talks leadership in the North Country.


There’s a running theme around the projects of civil engineer Jared Thisse, whether its $6 million in sewer system upgrades in Gouverneur, or more than $4 million in wastewater upgrades in Owego.

They may not be sexy, but they serve a key purpose.

“There’s a need for them,” he said.

That approach extends to his work in the community, from board and treasurer positions with multiple groups, to organizing the “Reel Alternative” movie series for the last three years, bringing a mixture of family favorites, foreign films and art house interests to Lewis County.

“If you want to do something around here, nobody’s going to stop you,” Mr. Thisse said.

He made his return to the north country after years working across the country in food and bottling engineering positions, including time with Kraft.

“I was living out of a suitcase for seven years,” he said. “I wanted to put down roots, and I wanted to do it where I had friends and family.”

Mr. Thisse returned to school at Clarkson University, where he studied as an undergrad, and completed a civil engineering degree in 2008, before landing the job at BCA Architects & Engineers, Watertown.

Among his day-to-day responsibilities are working with municipalities on designing and evaluating projects, and pursuing grant funding to help support them.

Mickey G. Lehman, the firm’s executive vice president, said Mr. Thisse’s background helped him view things from a different perspective, making him an asset for what he described as the “unusual projects” that require additional research.

“He’s learned to do things his own way, and as a result those projects that need that different approach or are not the typical projects, he’s very good at it,” he said.

In one instance, Mr. Lehman said Mr. Thisse developed a brand new template for dealings with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one the firm will use into the future.

“He breaks the mold and follows his own drummer,” Mr. Lehman said.

Down the road, Mr. Thisse said he was excited about the prospect of working on solar projects for municipalities.

Municipal leaders that have worked with Mr. Thisse said he has brought a professional attitude to projects that help move them forward. Ron McDougal, mayor of Gouverneur, said that projects in the village have a tendency to run into “speed bumps” due to the number of agencies and parties involved.

“He gets across the speed bumps a bit smoother than I do,” McDougal said. “It takes a certain kind of person to do this; it takes more than being an engineer.”

When not at work, Mr. Thisse said his various community group efforts help fill his schedule and keep his connections.

The “Reel Alternative” movie series has been a passion project for Mr. Thisse, who described himself as a big movie fan.

“It sounded like a good idea I could get involved with,” Mr. Thisse said. “It’s something different to do. It’s a different crowd for each movie.”

Among his favorite reactions has been seeing hundreds of kids gather at the Valley Drive-In in Greig for a screening of “The Sandlot,” a movie about a neighborhood baseball game, or the mixed reactions to a presentation of Swedish horror film “Let the Right One In.”

Even when things haven’t lined up perfectly, like an unsuccessful 2013 run for Martinsburg’s Town Council, Mr.

Thisse said he has been excited by the ability to build relationships around the community.

“It’s amazing how many people want to sit down with you, and talk with you,” he said.

Mr. Thisse said a key for north country business leaders is to expand the region’s visibility for young people, to show them the kind of things that made him want to stay in the area. He pointed out that many Fort Drum personnel end up staying in the area after their military careers are over.

“People who grew up here, they know what’s here,” he said. “New people, once they’re here they really enjoy it.”

— Gordon Block



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