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Her lasting legacy: DeWitt's Vicki Baker retires from public office

An environmentalist, Baker served 12 years on county legislature, four on town board

Vicki Baker, center, participates in her second-to-last regular meeting of the DeWitt Town Board.

Vicki Baker, center, participates in her second-to-last regular meeting of the DeWitt Town Board. Photo by Amanda Wada.

— A black helium balloon that was set free in Jamesville, and later landed in a Harrisburg, Pa., backyard, sparked a three-decade crusade in local government for DeWitt Town Board member Vicki Baker.

Wise words

I've known and worked with Vicki on local environmental issues for over 30 years. She is a close friend and one of my most trusted and valued board members. She will be missed on the board, but I am sure her contributions and accomplishments on behalf of the CNY environmental community will continue.

— Ed Michalenko, DeWitt town supervisor

She is retiring from local government after years in the county legislature and one term on the DeWitt Town Board.

Her history in local government started after she moved to Jamesville, when plans for the current incinerator plant on Rock Cut Road were coming to fruition.

“I thought to myself, I better see if that’s really a good idea,” she said. “The more I heard, the more I was concerned.”

From her research, she learned the air produced by the incinerator was potentially harmful, pumped full of potential toxins for the environment and those breathing that air. Having moved to Jamesville to set roots for her family, this was of greatest concern.

“I wasn’t an environmentalist until I became a mother,” she said.

She set free black helium balloons with a business card attached that told residents if they’re seeing the balloon in their yard, that they were downwind of possible toxins released by the proposed incinerator. Her phone number was on the bottom of the card, offering residents a place to call. The balloons would typically stay in the Jamesville-DeWitt, Fayetteville-Manlius area. But one day, five hours after the balloons were released, she got a call from a man in Harrisburg, Pa. He had found her balloon.

“It really showed that what we do, no matter where you live, does affect others,” Baker said.

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