The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce has named Paul Leuchner, recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award, as Civic Person of the Year
The Citizen of the Year Awards Ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 25, at the Holiday Inn Grand Island with Luke Moretti WIVB-TV Channel 4 serving as the master of ceremonies. The awards recognize those people and businesses who have made Grand Island a better place to live, work and play.
Civic Person of the Year Paul G. Leuchner
Paul Leuchner might be best described as a lifelong "Islander."
He grew up on the waterfront of eastern Long Island and spent many a day sailing the waters of Great South Bay. He married Linda, his college sweetheart, and soon after relocated to Grand Island upon accepting a position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District Office. As new Island residents, they quickly set about pursuing their respective careers and raising their daughter, Lisa, who recently received her doctorate from the University of Buffalo.
Leuchner started out as a member of a team of environmental scientists supporting the various civil works planning and regulatory missions of the Corps of Engineers. He quickly moved up through the Buffalo District organization, eventually becoming the chief of the regulatory branch, a position he held until his retirement in 2003. As branch chief, he was directly responsible for the Department of the Army water resource regulatory mission in the eastern Great Lakes basin. In addition to leading a large staff of engineers and scientists, he personally managed the environmental evaluation of a variety of complex multimillion-dollar industrial and commercial projects, often interacting with chief executive officers and members of Congress. His expertise in aquatic ecology, industrial location geography and federal environmental policy was well known in business and government circles, as well as the environmental community. It was his knowledge of federal environmental policy that often brought him to the nation's capital to serve as a water resources policy advisor, reporting directly to the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and the Office of the Chief of Engineers.
He organized the team of business and government interests that became the driving force for the restoration of Strawberry Island, after it was severely damaged by a series of intense storms in the mid-1990s. While working on this project, he developed the conceptual plan for the restoration of the East River Marsh in Beaver Island State Park, now a popular Grand Island fishing, hiking, birding and paddlesports destination. As both of these projects moved forward, he also pushed for the purchase of Motor Island using funds from the New York State Environmental Bond Act. The purchase was eventually approved and Motor Island was officially designated a Wildlife Management Area, thus establishing the only colonial bird nesting sanctuary on the Niagara River.
Over the course of his government career, Leuchner was twice awarded the Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Medal. He is the recipient of the Buffalo Federal Executive Board John E. Foley Community Service Award, and has been formally recognized by various local and national environmental organizations, as well as the United States Coast Guard.
In 2005, Gov. George Pataki appointed Leuchner to a four-year term on the newly formed Niagara River Greenway Commission. During his time on the commission, he assisted in the drafting of the Niagara River Greenway Plan, founded the popular Paddles Up Niagara event, successfully arranged for the installation of a handicapped accessible canoe and kayak launch at the East River Marsh, and worked with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to establish the new Spaulding Trail in Beaver Island State Park.
Leuchner is no stranger to volunteerism. He is a past member of Long Island's Stony Brook Volunteer Fire Department and the Grand Island Fire Co. He also served on the board of the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation and the Town of Grand Island Traffic Safety Advisory Board. He is actively involved in the boat crew, air crew and public education programs of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, having completed nearly 20 years of volunteer service in that organization. In addition, he is also a certified New York state boating safety instructor, American Canoe Association kayak instructor, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, and an active member of the Town of Grand Island Conservation Commission.
When not working on some project for the public good, Leuchner can often be found kayaking the Niagara River or hiking Island trails with Linda, and their Shetland sheepdog, Jade. Although well-traveled, Leuchner still firmly believes Grand Island is the grandest place to live and play.