How to be great for the public good

As Director of Upstate Revitalization for New York State, Tobe is responsible for $1.5 billion awarded through a competitive process to three of upstate’s eight economic development regions.

The ’60s and ’70s was a time of exciting possibilities, and you could feel that excitement at UB law. So says Richard Tobe ’74, recollecting a seminar with School of Law Dean “Red” Schwartz, a sociologist.

“There were maybe 15 of us and he asked, how many of us imagined we would be traditional lawyers in courts or boardrooms or doing contracts?” Tobe said. Nobody raised their hand. And we weren’t a shy bunch! That then became the subject for the seminar. We all worked on questions relative to the law and our ambitions. I think the UB School of Law was just terrific for that.”

Tobe has used his law degree for the public good in a series of high-profile positions. He worked with the legendary Buffalo Assemblyman William B. Hoyt on major environmental legislation, including New York’s Freshwater Wetlands Act. He ran Erie County’s Department of Environment and Planning; served as vice president of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; was commissioner of Buffalo’s newly created Department of Economic Development Permit and Inspection Services; and until recently served as deputy Erie County Executive. He has also taught as an adjunct at the Law School.

Appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo as Director of Upstate Revitalization for New York State, Tobe is now responsible for managing $1.5 billion in economic development resources.

It’s a capstone position for a lawyer who has spent his career making the law work for New Yorkers. And despite his familiarity with the political process, Tobe says, “I’ve never been super-interested in politics in the campaign sense. I’m interested in what you can do when campaigns have been won.”