Award Recipient: Darlene Kerr

President, Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce

Award Recipient: Robert M. Simpson

President, Metropolitan Development Association

Onondaga Citizens League announced the recipients of the 2010 Levi L. Smith Civic Education Award at its annual meeting on June 2. Darlene Kerr, as president of the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, and Robert M. Simpson, as president of the Metropolitan Development Association received the award, which recognizes commitment to citizen education and involvement in public affairs. Under their leadership, their two organizations, now one, CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, have promoted regional economic development and regional cooperation, pushed for downtown Syracuse revitalization efforts, and been supportive of efforts to make local government more efficient, thereby working to implement many recommendations from OCL studies.

Notably, Darlene and Rob led the efforts to merge their two organizations in CenterState CEO, which Rob now heads.  Consolidation has been a recurring topic in OCL studies, and merging economic development functions, to strengthen our regional competitiveness, has been suggested more than once in OCL studies.

Prior to assuming the position of  President of the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, Darlene served as the President, National Grid USA Services Company, Inc., a company that provided administrative, information technology, and property and asset management service to the National Grid USA electric and gas utility companies in New York and New England.  Before that, Darlene was the President and Chief Operating Officer of Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, elected on December 14, 2000.  Darlene is a Syracuse native and a 1973 graduate of the State University of New York at Potsdam where she earned a B. A. degree in Mathematics and Behavioral Sciences.  She earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration in 1984 from Syracuse University.  Darlene is a past president of OCL, a past OCL study co-chair and currently serves on the Board of Directors of numerous Central New York organizations.

Prior to joining the MDA in 2003, Rob worked as a policy associate and a government relations associate for Defenders of Wildlife and the State Environmental Resource Center, in Washington, DC.  He also served as policy director for the State Environmental Resource Center, in Madison, Wisconsin.  Rob served as assistant legislative director for the Office of Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV, in the United States Senate.  Rob is a native Central New Yorker who graduated from Colgate University in 1997.  He earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.  Rob also serves on the Board of Directors of numerous Central New York organizations.

The Onondaga Citizens League, administered and supported by University College of Syracuse University, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization designed to promote citizen education and involvement in public affairs. OCL was created in 1978 by a group of concerned citizens to study problems and propose solutions to issues facing Central New York. The League does not promote specific legislation nor function as a lobbying group. For more information, visit the web site,, or call 315-443-4846.