Bob Obee elected to Class B position; CPOA holds annual business meeting

Bob Obee waves as he is introduced by Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees Chair Candace L. Maxwell as one of the nominees for Class B Trustee Saturday in the Hall of Philosophy. HG Biggs/Staff Photographer

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

Members of the Chautauqua Corporation elected third-generation Chautauquan Bob Obee to fill the fourth Class B trustee position on the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees at the Chautauqua Property Owners Association’s annual business meeting Saturday in the Hall of Philosophy. 

Obee, the CPOA’s nominee, won the popular vote against self-nominated opponent Gary Reeves, 142-88. His term four-year term begins Oct. 1.

Obee’s background includes a doctorate in business administration and a career in consulting, business analytics and accounting, according to his nominee statement. Mary Henderson, CPOA vice president and chair of the nominating committee, said Obee is a “very strong supporter” of the arts and four pillars of Chautauqua.

Among other agenda items, the CPOA meeting opened with remarks from CPOA President Erica Higbie, describing the association’s core tenets of community, advocacy and communication.

Higbie reinforced the need to connect with staff, making note of the dinner hosted for the Buildings and Grounds Department to thank them for their work.

“Community building could be seen at our annual Week Zero welcome back dinner, with record-breaking attendance: close to 500 people at the Athenaeum,” Higbie said, “the CPOA area picnics around the grounds, (had) 500 to 600 community members and Institution staff participating.”

Advocacy and communication, she said, is seen in the 10 area groups that provide a way for Chautauquans to share perspectives with the CPOA and administration, as well as an Economic Impact Study commissioned by the CPOA and Institution.

“Property owners generate $36 million in total economic impact in the county and pay 15% of all property taxes,” Higbie said. “We enrich Chautauqua Institution by about $5 million a year, attract 27% of the daily visitors each season and provide 450 rental units for those visitors.”

Alongside these financial contributions, Higbie said the CPOA spends over $30,000 a year to maintain the residences on the grounds. CPOA Treasurer Alice Hood reported that CPOA’s total fiscal revenue was $29,780 in 2022.

The largest parts of the CPOA budget are annual, Hood said, including this year one-time donations to the Pickleball courts.

Henderson said the CPOA is still looking for positions to be filled as some people are stepping down or fulfilling other roles. Bob Jeffrey — committee chairs of Architectural Preservation Awards and Networking Groups, and former Class B trustee — will stay on as awards chair, but is stepping down from networking groups. 

Also among those stepping down are Bob McKiernan, Area Five rep and lake and environmental chair; Area Three rep Elisabeth Groninger and Area Seven rep Jake Zeigler. Johanna Sholder will step in as Area Five rep, Teresa Kammerman as networking groups chair and Maggie Lieber will fill the lake and environmental chair position.

Following Henderson’s remarks, Jeffrey presented the CPOA’s Architectural Preservation Awards. The categories include restoration, rehabilitation, compatible infill, adaptive reuse and stewardship. The first restoration award went to the House of Two Generals, located at 27 Vincent. Restoration awards were also given to 39 Wythe, the Kramer/Goldberg House and 41 Vincent. A rehabilitation award was presented to 4 Warren and the compatible infill award went to 13 Whittier. There were no awards presented for adaptive reuse or stewardship.

The CPOA invited Pierre Chagnon, chairman of the Chautauqua County Legislature, to speak. Chautauqua Lake is not owned by the county but by New York State, Chagnon said, so Chautauqua County has no riparian rights, which are traditional rights that attach to waterfront property by virtue of property actually meeting the shoreline. He urged CPOA members to look into additional legislative options, and shared examples from the last 30 years have worked, or not worked.

Chagnon said he has pushed for legislation to allow Chautauqua County rights over Chautauqua Lake. However, the county was in pursuit of federal funding for an aquatic ecosystem restoration project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which was granted and the Corps now has funding for a feasibility study.

Also in effect is the Senate Fiscal Year 2024 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which includes $500,000 for research on Chautauqua Lake.

“The project will seek to maximize benefits of connections between Chautauqua Lake and its 14 tributaries,” Chagnon said. “(These) are critical to the many species that require both lake and tributary habitats such as wildlife that forage.”

The work on Chautauqua Lake, Chagnon said, will also “seek to restore altered water storage” and “transport capacity to near-historic levels” at critical locations with an increased flood risk.

“In other words, (the project will decrease) the (anaerobic) conditions during the summer,” Chagnon said, “… which The Jefferson Project has now proven leads to release of the phosphorus from the bottom of the lake.”

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell said Chautauqua property owners need to factor property taxes into lake funding.

“You’re on the western side of the lake and that’s great,” Goodell said. “Wind normally comes out of the west, so that means the boats are going up and down and chewing up that seaweed. It all gets blown across the lake to the other side.”

He said if property owners want to “use the water from your faucet,” they should support the lake project. He commended Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill and other staff for taking “the lead” and moving forward.


The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.