WATERVILLE — Democratic City Councilor Lauren Lessing will be leaving the city to take a new job in Iowa.

Lessing, who is the Mirken Director of Academic and Public Programs at the Colby College Museum of Art, will start her new position as director of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art on July 31. Lessing will become the eighth director of the museum and will oversee the management and care of the museum’s collections and various activities, according to an announcement from the University of Iowa. The release states that Lessing will provide a leading role in fundraising and planning for the construction of a $50 million, 63,000-square foot museum.

Lessing, who represents the city’s Ward 3 and has been a vocal opponent of embattled Mayor Nick Isgro since his tweets about a Parkland, Florida, shooting survivor, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. Lessing was elected to the City Council in 2016. The following year, the council voted to allow Lessing to keep her seat after some residents claimed she was violating the city charter because her husband is a schoolteacher and as a councilor, she votes on city and school budgets and would gain financially from voting.

It was not immediately clear when she would be resigning from her seat on the council.

Lessing started with Colby in 2007 before eventually coming into her current title in 2015. Before coming to Waterville, she had worked for the Art Institute of Chicago and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

In the release from the University of Iowa, the college’s interim executive vice president and provost, Sue Curry, said Lessing brings “a wealth of experience and is widely respected in the art world.”


“She has tremendous vision and believes in the integral role that the Stanley Museum of Art plays in the academic mission of the University of Iowa,” Curry said.

Lessing, originally from Indiana, is the daughter of parents who both studied under the founding director of the Stanley Museum of Art.

In the release, Lessing states she is looking forward to the new opportunity and calls the Stanley Museum of Art “one of the finest academic art museums in the country.”

“University art museums have the capacity to be nimble and experimental, and the Stanley is well positioned to lead the field with new and innovative practices to educate, enrich, and empower a diverse audience,” she said.

Lessing, one of three finalists for the position, was interviewed on campus in April.

Colby College did not release a statement on Lessing’s departure.


This is not the first time in 2018 that Waterville will have to replace a sitting councilor. Earlier this year, Nick Champagne resigned his seat to become the city’s engineer. He was replaced by the council with John O’Donnell, a former councilor. However, citizens launched a recall campaign against O’Donnell. Recall efforts against both Isgro and O’Donnell will appear on the June 12 ballot.

Lessing was also the target of a Facebook group called Replace Waterville Maine City Council. The page called for Lessing to be recalled, claiming “Colby doesn’t need a seat at the table.” The page also posted the street Lessing lives on, claiming she was not a representative of people on low incomes.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253


Twitter: @colinoellis


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