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Insight: CJ Madonna

CJ Madonna

By Wendy BakerPhoto by Jessica McCafferty

Hometown: Glens Falls, New York

Family: Wife Marsha, son John and daughter, Katie

Occupation : Attorney, In-House General Counsel Schluter Systems L.P.

Education: St. Mary’s Academy, Glens Falls; St. Michael’s College, St. Mary’s Law School, San Antonio, Texas.

Community Involvement: Former Member of Plattsburgh Noon Rotary and former Charter President of Sunrise Rotary.

Notable Honors: Inaugural Paul Harris Fellow, Sunrise Rotary Club

Attorney CJ Madonna began his career practicing law in the North Country when he came to work as an Associate for Attorney Clyde Lewis in 1982. In the forty years between then and now, his passion for economic development has given him not only a career he loves, but also the ability to make a difference in the well-being of the North Country.

In his role as the Assistant Attorney for the Town of Plattsburgh, Madonna supported zoning and planning boards, the town tax assessment board and other special legislative and development projects. He also assisted several other municipalities on special projects involving bringing wind and solar energy facilities to the region as well as protecting citizens from the effects of biohazards.

In 2006, Madonna became in-house counsel for Schluter Systems on a part-time basis before joining the company full-time in 2009. Throughout his career, he has devoted his professional energy to creating and protecting opportunity by bringing people together to work out solutions.

Following are excerpts from Strictly Business’ interview with Attorney CJ Madonna.

SB: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

CJ: As an attorney, I was mentored early on to be practical, reasonable and fair. We always want to get the best for our clients, but in the end, agreements that do not work for both parties do not solve anything. When I’m working to get to a solution, I am always looking for the most practical way to resolve the problem where both sides can have a voice and an outcome that is fair and reasonable.

SB: What are the highlights of your professional career?

CJ: Joining Schluter Systems as in-house counsel fulfills a career goal for me. It has been a career highlight. I also appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to be a special prosecutor on behalf of the Town of Beekmantown in a bio solids case. That was a demanding case and it felt good to know the residents’ voice — not wanting alleged bio solids dumped in their backyard — was heard in the end. That is what made that case one that really mattered. Beyond that, I deeply appreciate the many relationships I have had the privilege of making over time.

SB: What do you do to stay focused?

CJ: I do not need to do anything to stay focused. I love working; I actually relax at work. I learned a long time ago to realize that when I go home, I shut the door on work problems. I enjoy coming to work, but cannot change anything when I am not here.

SB: What inspires you?

CJ: I come to work every day loving my job. There is always something new, no day is ever the same. My grandchildren also inspire me. I love it when they tell everyone that Grandpa is their favorite. My wife inspires me too, especially in the way she supports me and lets me do what I love.

SB: What is your favorite quote, and how does it speak to you?

CJ: My favorite quote is something I came across as a student at St. Michael’s College. Before I graduated, I discovered “The American Creed” by William Tyler Page. I have had that hanging up since, and it reminds me that, above all, I have to be my own man and be true to myself. These ideas helped me choose my opportunities carefully, making sure they always felt right and were aligned with what I thought was important.

SB: If you could have dinner in anyone’s company, who would you choose?

CJ: I would like to talk with Colin Powell. I always thought he should have gone for more. I think he had a good path and could have been our first black president. He had great knowledge, great foreign policy and he spoke very well. He always had a good commanding presence, which truly helps to get things done.

SB: What is something no one would ever guess about you?

CJ: I am the cook of the house. I love people and I love feeding people. I cherish the times I can make my meatballs, give some away to my daughter’s friends and open the door to family and friends for a Sunday meal. Whoever shows up is welcome. We always have rooms upstairs, so anyone can stay as long as they want.

SB: How would you like to be remembered?

CJ: I would like to be remembered by my children and wife as supportive, caring and loving. As for the rest of it, I really do not care. I will live on in the hearts of those I love, especially my children and grandchildren.

SB: What do you believe the North Country community should do today to ensure a prosperous future?

CJ: We need to continue to work to bring the Canadians down and give them opportunities. I think we also need to make sure we take a hard look at who is coming and look to attract companies that are the right fit. Sometimes, we give a company everything, and the next thing you know they are gone. If they do not stay, I think we need to begin to ask companies to pay back what they are given. I think we also need to continue to better ourselves. We need to have shovel-ready sites companies can come into. I think the Development Corporation is doing a fine job on that. We need to find more land for good sites. We also need to make sure we are upgrading our infrastructure, maybe looking toward the state to assist us to make sure those pieces are in place.

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