Fortune 52 Honoree: Amy Engel, Executive Director, Sustainable Long Island

♦ Amy Engel, Executive Director of Sustainable Long Island, is this week’s Fortune 52 honoree. The Fortune 52 weekly column in The Long Island Press written by Associate Publisher, Beverly Fortune, honors local women who lead multiple lives, making significant and unique contributions in their community or workplace: women from all walks of life. As Beverly puts it, read on about Amy’s story and “be inspired by her strength.”

» Amy Engel’s enthusiasm is contagious and our region is going to catch on soon now that she’s become the new executive director of Sustainable Long Island. She is pumped up and ready to lead the grassroots organization to its next phase by building on existing partnerships and collaborating with new ones to achieve her mission: rethink, rebuild and renew Long Island. Working with municipal and civic leaders, environmentalists, developers and the general population of Long Island, she wants to bring about a positive change.

Amy has a background that is rich in public service. During her career, this enterprising Holtsville woman has volunteered, interned, lobbied and worked alongside some very influential Long Islanders.

Her passion for advocacy began in the 70’s when she started emulating her mother, Mickie, who was active in the successful “Dump the Dump” campaign in Brookhaven. The contaminated landfill was closed and is now known as the Holtsville Ecology Center, a recreational and educational facility that draws thousands of Long Island families every year to visit the pool complex, fitness course, nature preserve and zoo.

“I’m really proud of the ecology site,”she says.

Amy majored in political science at the State University of Stony Brook and was fortunate to intern with then- Legis. Nora Bredes, a Suffolk County Democrat who was an inspiring leader of the movement to close down the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant.

Bredes recently passed away and Amy remembers her fondly. “Nora was a huge influence and mentor to me,” she says. After her internship, Amy was hired as the legislative aide to former Democratic state Sen. Brian Foley and became active in the Democratic Party.

Amy wanted to experience other ways to work with the government and politics and spent five years as a lobbyist for the Long Island Association (LIA) under the tutelage of Mitch Pally, now CEO of the Long Island Builders Institute, and the late LIA executive director, Matt Crosson. For the LIA, she frequently traveled to Albany on behalf of their initiatives.

After giving birth to three sons in four years, Amy began working part time in community development for the Greater LI Clean City Coalition and Keyspan. In that position she gained an important insight. “I realized I didn’t have to be a politician to make a difference,” she says.

For eight years she was a senior management analyst for the Suffolk County executive before she applied for the newly open position as executive director at Sustainable Long Island.

“I had the right background,” Amy says. “Their core mission is economic development, social equity and environmental health. The job felt like it was meant for me.”

Though Amy took over the helm of Sustainable Long Island in November, one of the first tasks she had was moving the entire operation from Bethpage to its new headquarters in Farmingdale. Now that she’s settled in, she is busy meeting one-on-one with key people across Long Island to advance the cause of sustainable development.

“I’ve tried to make a difference in every role or job I’ve had,” she says.

Food equity is high on Amy’s list of priorities. Partnering with the Long Island Farm Bureau to establish youth-staffed farmers’ markets in low-income communities has been especially gratifying to her.

“Farmers markets sell out every weekend,” she says. Not only have the markets provided employment for high school students, it’s given them the satisfaction of working together to better their own neighborhoods.

“When you see some of our projects and what we’re doing, they’re really exciting. I love that,” she says. “The kids get fired up. It’s a win/win situation.”

Amy wants to involve even more students in future outreach programs.

Amy’s personal history in politics and her unique background in advocacy has given her a rare insight into almost every level of community and government relations. She sees beyond the progress that Sustainable Long Island has already achieved and the potential for great success ahead.

“I love that I can be part of an organization that makes a difference to everyday people.”

For more information go to sustainableli.org, email aengel@sustainableli.org or call 516-873-0230. The 6th Annual Sustainability Conference is Friday, June 1, 2012 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone as the keynote speaker. To register call 516-873-0230, or email Tammy Severino at tseverino@sustainableli.org for details

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