(Beacon, NY) – After five years as first Chief Operating Officer and then President and CEO, Mike Colarusso has announced his departure from the Incline Society as of 1 June. A retired lieutenant colonel who currently works for the Army as a civilian research analyst and author, Colarusso will be replaced by Society Vice President Jeff McHugh.
Colarusso is leaving due to professional and family considerations. “Leading the Incline Society is very much a second full-time job, but my work for the Army these days is particularly demanding. Additionally, my wife and I are expecting a little one this summer, so there’s simply no way I can continue to provide the Society with the leadership it deserves.”
The president says that the transition to Jeff McHugh will be a seamless one. “Jeff has been with the Society for over a year, and he’s been an avid supporter for many years more. He’s deep thinking, kind, a great communicator and extremely well-connected to the regional community. Jeff has the technical, business, environmental management and leadership talents needed to continue our progress. And Jeff has a terrific board to assist him, people who are deeply familiar with our project goals. I’m thrilled to be leaving the Society in such capable hands.”
During Colarusso’s tenure with the Society, the incline restoration project gained significant momentum and achieved several milestones. Professional economic, fundraising and engineering studies were commissioned and paid for, membership and financial support grew to new levels, and the Society dramatically expanded its educational outreach and interpretive hiking programs. The Society also completed its successful sponsorship of the Mount Beacon Fire Tower restoration, increased its professional memberships and affiliations, revamped its website and online gift shop, and produced a 450 page restoration concept plan.
That plan was the centerpiece of Beacon’s 2013 Centennial Exhibition, “Beacon Re-imagined,” designed and executed by Jeff McHugh and supported by the City of Beacon, Scenic Hudson and many Incline Society members and local volunteers. The exhibition featured ‘Excelsior,’ a call to action video with state-of-the-art animations detailing the Society’s vision for the restored railway. “The most gratifying moments of my involvement have been talking with members of the community about the railway’s past and future,” says Colarusso. “Their ideas and support have really shaped the direction we’re taking. The exhibition was a terrific opportunity to do that and showcased the creative and organizational abilities of our new president.”
Armed with a new $100,000 state capital improvement project grant secured through the office of State Assemblyman Frank Skartados, the Incline Society is poised to complete a full operating and business plan in 2014 and has begun detailed coordination with NY State Parks, which is acquiring the incline railway property in a series of purchases over the next few years. “Our hope is that Mount Beacon Park will become the front door to the state’s beautiful Hudson Highlands State Park,” says Colarusso.
Asked for his final thoughts after five years of volunteer effort, Colarusso said “I continue to believe that the railway restoration is the single best thing we can do for our region – the potential cultural, economic, environmental and recreational benefits are tremendous. Thanks so much to the trustees, staff, members, and supporters of the incline for getting the project to this point. It was an honor working with so many selfless, dedicated friends. My family and I will be waiting in line to buy a ticket on opening day. We’ll meet you at the top!”