After four terms as Augusta mayor and 25 years as leader of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, during which the city saw major commercial growth, Peter Thompson has left his imprint on Augusta.

For his efforts to help make the community a better, more prosperous place, Thompson is the recipient of the chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Peter was a great communicator and known for being courageous to dive in, when there was a need, and fill that need,” said Roger Pomerleau, an Augusta native, longtime businessman and veteran member of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. “He did a lot of things that were above and beyond what a chamber executive would be expected to do, and he didn’t get paid for that time. He attended Planning Board meetings, was involved in the permitting for the Marketplace, he put in a lot of extra hours. He never looked at the clock.”

Pomerleau, a partner in developing the now-large Marketplace at Augusta retail center in what was, previously, largely undeveloped north Augusta, said Thompson helped sell the idea of development to the public and helped advocate for it to secure the permits needed from the city to move forward. He also, Pomerleau said, helped draw in tenants for the Marketplace.

For Thompson, his 25 years as chamber president and CEO, roles he retired from about a year ago, were neither the start nor likely the end of his community involvement and service.

Thompson served four terms as mayor of Augusta, from 1981 to 1988.

He was named president of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1989, a role that involved organizing community events and working to promote business development.

Before taking that job, he was assistant to the senior vice president at Central Maine Power Co., where he started, in 1968, as manager of public and employee relations.

Over the years he has served on dozens of boards of local organizations, and he continues to serve on some of them, including the Economic Development Council of Maine, the Capitol Planning Commission and the University of Maine at Augusta Capital Campaign and Board of Visitors.

“He’s had a lifetime of achievement, but he’s not done,” Kim Vandermeulen, former chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said of Thompson. “He’s served on multiple community-service-related organizations and continues to do so to this day. To say he’s in it up to his ears is an understatement. He has always been a gentleman and is clearly committed to making this community better, economically and educationally.”

Vandermeulen said to accomplish as much as Thompson has, you have to have the desire to do so. He said he can only think of a handful of people in the Kennebec valley who have been nearly as active as Thompson has been over the years.

Thompson, 74, who lives in Readfield with his wife, Mary, said he feels there are others more deserving of the award, but he appreciates it nonetheless.

“It’s a nice honor. I’m pleased with it, but I don’t think I deserve it. There are others more deserving,” Thompson said. “I think this is a nice little plateau I’ll move on from. Maybe moving on will be enjoying my wife and puppy here, and family.”

He said he’s looking forward to seeing old friends at the Jan. 22 chamber awards ceremony, which has been named The Kenney Awards and has a new format, in which some award winners will be announced that night, according to Ross Cunningham, who became chamber president and CEO when Thompson left.

Thompson worked for about two months alongside Cunningham to help with the transition.

“Peter’s leadership and mentorship during the turnover was instrumental in the success the chamber has seen in the last year and the future we are looking forward to,” Cunningham said. “Peter was magnanimous in his willingness to share the ins and outs of the business and connect me with folks he thought could help the chamber move forward. We still talk on a regular basis.”

Thompson, in turn, said he thinks Cunningham is doing well since taking over at the chamber.

Mayor David Rollins said Thompson “turned the Kennebec Valley Chamber into maybe the best chamber of commerce in Maine. The (Lifetime Achievement) award is truly well-deserved, and I’m very pleased to see Peter recognized for his long-term commitment to the city and Kennebec valley.”

Thompson, who earned a journalism degree at the University of Maine, joined the Army as a public information officer. He returned home to go to work for Central Maine Power Co.

Thompson said he’ll probably do some consulting work, but so far, in addition to his ongoing service on boards and committees, he has been enjoying his retirement.

He was poised to begin an international consulting job a while ago that would have required a major time commitment, but he chose to explore some nonbusiness interests instead.

“I decided, after 52 years of getting up in the morning and putting on a suit and tie, it was time to stay in a bit,” he said. “I had a kayak that hadn’t been used, a cottage Downeast that hadn’t been visited much. So I threw that (international consulting work) out for the time being, though I’m keeping my options open. Mary and I spent a lot of time at the cottage up on the coast Downeast. I’ve played a little more golf than usual. Spent a lot of time hiking, walking the dog, biking, a lot more reading, and visited my son in D.C. I’m doing fun things.”

Vandermeulen noted Thompson has retained his focus on the positive, which seemed to drive him during his work for the chamber, and for the community.

“If you’re trying to improve the world, you need to focus on what’s going well, not just what’s going wrong,” he said of Thompson. “He always believed our actions could improve things.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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