Pete Gannon is a Shaker High grad who is now CEO of the United Way of the Capital Region. He used to work for Supervisor Paula Mahan and Assemblyman Ron Canestrari before moving to head up the Arsenal Partnership in Watervliet. He lives in Latham with his wife and two children.
Q: The United Way has made a difference during the pandemic, setting up a 2-1-1 phone bank so people can easily get information and donating money to a number of causes that needed help getting through COVID-19. Is there one thing you are most proud of the United Way has done over the past year and why?
A: The heritage of United Way is in many people coming together and doing what they can to support their community and that was never more evident than over the past year. We all endured some level of crisis but the way neighbors stepped up for one another every day — was inspiring to be a small part of. But I’m most proud of the way our team showed up for the community under difficult circumstances — raising over $1.2 million for local charities, procuring crucial PPE to protect front line workers and volunteers and doing all they good to help a community navigate an unprecedented situation.
Q: What attracted you to the United Way and what is the favorite part of your job? The least favorite?
A: I think United Way is uniquely positioned to change philanthropy for a generation and that is ultimately what attracted me to the position. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves but sometimes we don’t know where to start. I’d suggest it’s by getting engaged either through volunteerism or contributing financially to causes you care about and United Way is a vehicle that can work with anyone at any stage of their life with any set of means to accomplish that — easily the best part of my job. As for the worst — it’s the frustration of limited resources to address the magnitude of needs.
Q: You have been in and around politics for a number of years. How has it changed since you first got involved?
A: Politics has gotten nastier and more divisive. It inhibits great people from running and lends voice to individuals who we really don’t need to hear from. That said we’ve been fortunate to have a leader in town like Paula Mahan (a candidate I worked for) and further back Bob Reilly (another candidate I worked for) who were always involved in politics for all of the right reasons. They are two elected officials I really admire.
Q: How has Colonie changed from the town you grew up in?
A: A lot of things have changed, a lot hasn’t. For me, Colonie was always about the schools — it’s why my mom moved here and did whatever it took to keep us here as we moved around a lot but always within the boundaries of North Colonie — and it’s why my family is here today. In the end it’s a huge town (with all the challenges that come along with it) but it still has a small town feel … people know each other, look out for one another and that is key to an incredible community.
Q: Who is the one person, alive or dead, you would like to have lunch with and what would you talk about?
A: My great-grandfather, Vincent. He passed shortly after I was born and for a number of reasons my family history is murky but he would be the key to so much information. I’m completely fascinated by his move from Italy to New York City and his involvement in the Teamsters in Manhattan during his life. From most accounts he was equally fascinated with the new baby in 1980 so it would be great to catch up.
If you would like to see someone featured in Five Questions contact Jim Franco at [email protected] or 518-878-1000