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  • Writer's picturePatricia Salkin

First Woman to Lead SUNY ESF is Attorney and Former Local Government Official Joanie Mahoney

Updated: Jan 30, 2023



When Joanie Mahoney was appointed as the 5th President of SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in November 2020, she became the first woman to lead the College. She joined ESF in 2018 as the Chief Operating Officer, and she was also a special advisor to SUNY Upstate Medical University. At the time Mahoney switched her professional focus to higher education, both ESF and Upstate Medical were undergoing tumultuous times.


A graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, Mahoney served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office and then worked in private practice with the law firm of Harris Beach. Immediately prior to joining ESF, Mahoney served on Syracuse Common Council (2000-2002) and as the Onondaga County Executive for 11 years (where she was also the first woman to hold that position). She also served as chairperson of the New York State Thruway Authority and was a Trustee of the New York Power Authority.


In announcing her appointment, the SUNY Board of Trustees noted that Mahoney had helped ESF expand, ““... as an instrumental partner with government to address pressing issues like climate change and intrusion of invasive species in our waterways, and functions as point person on Covid matters and preparedness." The Chancellor, in acknowledging her work as county executive said that it, “... demonstrates her abilities to form coalitions and achieve results -- exactly the outcomes we’re hoping to see at ESF.” Mahoney commented, “I used the network that I built over the years as one of the assets that I bring to ESF, not simply by virtue of the network, but as evidence of the skill set that ESF needs right now,” She noted that she would apply her government experience and passion for solving environmental issues as president. Mahoney has been described as a good listener with a unique interest in the people around her and as a consensus builder.

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