Robert Nemer: Protecting Lake George with Advocacy and Targeted Giving

“I’m a volunteer,” says Robert Nemer, co-owner of four automobile dealerships in Queensbury, Saratoga Springs, and Latham, NY.

Yes...but those humble words don’t fully capture his leadership when it comes to protecting Lake George. His actions, however, do. Again and again.

• Taking measures to lessen the impact of his property on the Lake.
• Investing in the LGA’s Science-to-Solutions™ programs for the past decade.
• Serving on the LGA’s Council of Business Advisors.
• Donating a sweet-looking Ford Bronco as an auction item for the LGA’s 2023 Summer Gala.

Robert and Franny Nemer

Robert and Franny Nemer at the Lake George Club, June 2023.

Why does he ardently protect the Lake?

“I like when I look down at the water and I can see the bottom of the Lake. There aren’t many places you can do that,” Robert says. “I want this for my kids and my grandkids.”

To support this wish, Robert engages in what he calls targeted giving: “I don’t just write a check. I want to see where my money is going.”

Committing Acts of Love

Born and raised in Philadelphia, where he taught elementary school, Robert moved to upstate New York in 1970 to help run his father’s Volkswagen dealership in Albany. In 1975, curiosity led him to Lake George: “I said to my wife, ‘Let’s go look at this Lake George.’ We stayed at the Tahoe Motel for a couple of nights and fell in love with the Lake.”

The romance continued.

In the first few years, Robert and his brother, Peter, rented a summer house near the Lake George Club. When that was no longer available, the two purchased a home in Diamond Point where everyone in their family took turns staying during the summer months. In 1983, Robert bought his brother’s share in the house and moved his family to Lake George full time.

It didn’t take long for his Lake Protector™ instincts to kick in. “Instead of putting grass in the yard, which was sand and only 50 feet from the Lake, we used mulch and native ground cover to keep toxic materials, like road salt, from going into the Lake. We also want to keep fertilizer out of the Lake. I never use it.”

Then, when Robert and his wife, Franny, rebuilt the house, they installed French drains and gutters to divert stormwater from the Lake. Similarly, to reduce algae-causing nutrients from ending up in the Lake, they upgraded their septic system and added an alarm to it.

Bronco from Nemer Ford

This midnight blue Bronco from Nemer will be auctioned at the LGA Gala, July 14, 2023, at The Sagamore Resort, Bolton Landing, NY.

“It’s important for us to protect the Lake,” says Robert. “If things go into it—salt, septic waste, nutrients—the Lake is not going be as clean as it is. We drink our water from the Lake. And we swim, sail, boat, and fish in the Lake.”

In other words, they take care of a Lake that takes care of them.

Giving for Results

Fast-forward through raising a family and growing a business, and Robert continues protecting what matters to him through giving: “My life has been good. The community has been good to me. Employees have been good to me. Customers have been good to me. I’m at a point now, for the past 10 years, where I give back. I do It because it’s right thing to do and I feel good about it.

In a purposeful, practical, tangible way.

Hudson Headwaters Health Network, as well as St. Peters, Saratoga, and Glens Falls hospitals have all benefited from his time and donations: neonatal heart monitors, a center for the elderly, a comfortable lounge on the ICU floor, to name a few.

And when it comes to education, Robert says he can’t do enough. Six years ago he started the Kids with Packs Program, providing school supplies to children in need at 17 school districts in Warren, Washington, Saratoga, and other counties. The backpacks are assembled at his Ford dealership, assembly-line style, with help from his wife and grandkids. A joyful sight for Robert.

This brand of targeted giving, coupled with his love for Lake George, has proven a good match for the science-based efforts of the LGA. “When Jeff Killeen and Eric Siy talked to me about the LG30 and the Jefferson Project, my buzzer went off,” Robert says. “I could see there was a connection there for a group of people who wanted to save the Lake. Sign me up!”

As a founding LG30 member, a select group of donors, Robert gave generously. He also made efforts to learn about the Jefferson Project, spending time with the working partners at the LGA, IBM, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to understand why and how they monitor, predict, and respond to stresses on Lake George.

“You hear stories about lakes all around us in New York that have challenges,” Robert explains. “I don’t want that to happen in Lake George. This is all about the science. It’s not buying a fancy sign, it’s paying for the science to be able to help us protect the Lake.”

Speaking for the Lake

Another LGA group that has caught Robert’s interest is the Council of Business Advisors. His mission is to turn as many area businesses into Lake Protectors as possible — because, as he explains it, it just makes sense: “If the Lake goes sour, your business investment goes down the drain. Can you afford to lose the investment? I don’t think so.”

He’s raring to raise the red flags and knock on doors: “There are so many good, passionate people around the Lake. It’s one-on-one conversation that’s going to spark them. With email and snail mail it’s hard to bring the point across.”

Given his boots-on-the-ground approach, it’s not surprising that at this year’s LGA Gala — the one featuring a Nemer Ford Bronco on the live auction block — kudos and cocktails aren’t the draw for Robert. Like any great volunteer, this is another chance for him to advocate for protection of the Lake that stole his heart nearly 50 years ago.