Former lobbyist Bernard Melewski writes “Inside the Green Lobby”


Bernard Melewski spent more than 15 years working as an environmental lobbyist for the Council of Adirondacks, trying to save the 6 million acre Adirondack Park from the devastating effects of acid rain and the potential sale of huge tracts of private forest land. . His book “Inside the Green Lobby: The Fight to Save the Adirondacks” (SUNY Press) captures some of the triumphs and struggles he faced to preserve one of the last wilderness areas in the lower 48 states.

“While writing the book, I began to realize that in my career I’ve often tried to create order out of chaos,” Melewski said. “One of my goals in writing this book was to show how things work in government. It’s not always nice and honorable. I wanted to capture what life is like as a lobbyist. few lobbyist memoirs.The ones that do exist are usually lobbyists trying to make money after being released.

Melewski is well aware of the negative feelings surrounding that job title. “Years ago, I was at a big family gathering over a buffet, and a distant relative who I didn’t know very well asked me what I had been up to. “I’m a lobbyist,” I said, and he ran away shouting, “You’re the one having trouble with people. I haven’t even had a chance to say that I lobby for the good guys.

This book brings out the ups and downs of being in Melewski’s position. “I met many dynamic people both in New York State and in Washington, DC. I also had a great deal of independence, as long as I stayed within reason to achieve our goals on the Adirondack Council. I also loved our strong internship program which allowed me to work closely with so many young people.

Periodically, Melewski grew weary of his job because while he met a lot of good people in politics, he also met people he would never like to see again. “It gets tiring getting yelled at and people hanging up on you on the phone. Every time that happened I always tried to stay calm and think ‘why did this happen and how should I react? Yelling back is never a good option for a lobbyist.

The final chapter of Melewski’s book is a clearly detailed interpretation of the art of lobbying. “To be successful, a lobbyist must understand what motivates the people who pull the levers of power for you. This meant I had to be careful and find out as much as I could about the people I was trying to influence. What are their interests and origins? It was about making a real connection with policy makers and their staff.

Melewski said a good lobbyist is fully informed. “I needed to learn as much as possible about something like acid rain. I needed to master the facts and stay open to new ideas and even compromise sometimes, even if it might make me wince.

Her favorite compliment came from former Assembly Speaker Richard Brodsky, who once told her, “I don’t get it. You seem to get along with everyone, Democrats and Republicans. Everyone seems to have a good impression of you.

Working for the Adirondack Council, Melewski was unable to invite lawmakers to dinner or offer them an all-expenses-paid vacation. “We didn’t have the money for it, but I could take them on tour in the Adirondacks. The place has always sold out. We would often take them to a special remote location and watch them experience the beauty of the lake or pond. It has always been productive. It’s one thing to show someone an image of a majestic place and another thing to stand within that image.

Melewski retired from full-time lobbying in 2006. At that time, in New York State and Washington, Republicans and Democrats often worked together to enact laws to protect the environment. “It is much more difficult today to work in a bipartisan way. Politics has become tribal. It’s a sad development, and we’re all better off when people of goodwill work together.

Although Melewski was not involved in the work of the Cut Inflation Act that was recently passed in Congress, he hopes the nation will take action to slow the effects of climate change. “This law encourages people to switch to renewable energies to reduce carbon emissions, and that encourages me a lot. They also added a statement that carbon is a pollutant, and that should bolster the EPA’s prospects of regulating emissions despite some recent Supreme Court rulings.

Looking back on his career, Melewski is very proud of what he has helped accomplish for the environment in the Adirondacks. “My only regret is the cost my work has taken on my family. It was not unusual for them not to see me during the month of June, but the opportunity I had to influence public policy on an issue that was close to my heart made me feel good. I know I was able to get the ball rolling on some important environmental issues to help keep the Adirondacks as pristine as possible.
For 15 years, Melewski has been running an organic farm and operating a winery. “This is my new book. I call it “Hobby Farm” and I have fun writing it. From time to time, I get writer’s block and my wife has given me some great advice. She said, ‘Keep writing, and you can put it all back together later.’ »


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