October 17, 2021

Leading the way

Mikowski new executive director for Access to Independence

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Alex Mikowski, right, talks Friday with Davyd Fox during a naloxone training event outside Access to Independence of Cortland County. Mikowski was named the organization’s executive director this week.

In Alex Mikowski’s experience, many people don’t think about using services from independent living organizations until they acquire a disability.

She hopes to change that in her new role as executive director of Access to Independence of Cortland County Inc. She wants to focus on informing the community of the programs the organization has available, even before they’re needed.

“So when something does happen and now, all of a sudden, you can’t do what you normally do, you can think of Access to get the support you need,” she said.

Mikowski was named this week as the executive director of Access to Independence of Cortland County Inc., according to a release from the organization. She starts in the position Oct. 12.

Prior to this, she served on the organization’s board of directors.

“Overjoyed might not be a strong enough word,” Mikowski said of being hired.

Mikowski was chosen by the organization at the end of August to succeed Aaron Baier in part based on her ability to connect with people, said Larry Woolheater, chairman of the organization’s board of directors.

Baier resigned in May but Woolheater declined to comment as to why.

“She (Mikowski) makes people feel like she’s talking right to you when she’s talking to a group of people,” Woolheater said.

Mikowski said she has a learning disability and writing disability, which helps give her better understanding of people with disabilities’ capabilities and helps her connect with other people with disabilities.

Mikowski is a chemical dependency counselor with Family & Children’s Counseling Services, where she has worked for two years, she said.

Before that, she served with the mobile crisis team with Liberty Resources and the Cortland County Mental Health Department as the coordinator for the Single Point of Access program.

In her new position, Mikowski said she wants to highlight and show the community the work the organization does.

Living life with disabilities, she said there’s “no shame in asking for help and trying to find those resources that are going to help you.” She, for instance, uses a computer to write rather than pen and paper, because it helps her write more clearly and reduces mistakes, thanks to spell check.

Additionally, many mobility accessibility projects — such as installing ramps in people’s homes — have been on hold during the pandemic due lack of builders and materials, she said. So getting those going is another item of focus for her.

Community insight will also be a priority, she said.

“I’m going to try and hit the ground running and figure out, based on community input, what are the things that Access could be doing better or things that we used to do that we’ve drifted away from,” she said.