It will be difficult for many people associated with The Arc Jefferson/St. Lawrence imaging the agency without the presence of one individual.
Howard W. Ganter has been with the nonprofit group for 44 years. He has overseen its development and helped it overcome its share of challenges.
Ganter recently announced that he will retire as chief executive officer in January. Lynn M. Pietroski, The Arc’s chief operating officer, will succeed him at that time.
“Howie is a strong leader who cares about our staff and people we support, and we have been fortunate to have his guidance as the agency’s CEO for 13 years,” Jackie Sauter, president of The Arc Jefferson/St. Lawrence’s board of directors, said in a news release issued Aug. 1. “We look forward to celebrating Howie’s achievements in the coming months and have full confidence in Lynn as a successor.”
Ganter began with the former Jefferson Rehabilitation Center in Watertown in the late 1970s as a recreation therapist. After 11 years, he was named director of day services, according to The Arc’s website.
He them took on the role of director of residential services, a position he held for 16 years. Ganter became CEO of the organization in 2009.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career with The Arc; I’ve enjoyed every position I’ve had, and I’ve had a multitude of different positions,” Ganter said in a story published Aug. 1 by the Watertown Daily Times. “I’ve met some great people, and I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change during that time to an environment that’s much more person-centered, where people that we support are making decisions regarding what they want to do and how they want to do it. We have some great management staff, and I feel there’s nothing but success for the future for the organization.”
Founded in 1954, JRC’s mission has been to advocate on behalf of and provide opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It started Production Unlimited, a sheltered workshop, through which individuals work on projects for various companies.
Ganter helped the JRC merge with Arc St. Lawrence in 2019 to become The Arc Jefferson/St. Lawrence. He also oversaw the renovation of its campus in Watertown; the previous structure was built in 1968, and the new facility was unveiled last year. The Arc also has a facility in Canton.
In 2014, state authorities announced they wanted to alter the nature of sheltered workshops over the next six years. A federal law allows companies to pay individuals participating in these programs less than the minimum wage based on their level of productivity. Opponents said this arrangement exploited these workers, and New York officials wanted participants to close the programs.
However, local residents with family members in Production Unlimited pushed back against the proposal. Participants have a sense of fulfillment doing these jobs and are comfortable working at their own pace.
The state chose not to close sheltered workshops but to have more able-bodied people participate in them. Ganter rallied JRC’s clients against the state’s plans, and he said Jefferson County “was the most pivotal community behind supporting this program,” according to a Times story published May 29, 2015.
Moving into a new facility on Bradley Street in 2017, Production Unlimited set out to transform into a full-fledged business rather than operate as a program. JRC contracted with a Canadian firm to produce rubber and steel-toed work shoe covers, work that used to be done in Buffalo.
Production Unlimited also runs a UPS franchise store at this site. This was an innovative way to retain an essential service for JRC’s clients.
“Ganter has served on many boards and committees during his tenure to include: 20 years on the village of Glen Park Board; 13 years on the board of the Volunteer Transportation Center, with several years as president; president of 1 World Foundation; president of DOHL Development; treasurer of the Executive Director Association of NYSARC; member of the Finance Committee of the North Country Initiative, board member of NYSACRA, member of the Guardianship Committee of The Arc New York; and member of Watertown Noon Rotary and past president,” the news release reported.
Ganter was named the 2017 recipient of the Israel A. Shapiro Award, a richly deserved honor. But he’s given much more to our community than can ever be paid back. We congratulate Ganter on his dedicated service and wish him all the best in retirement.