WATERVILLE — For James M. LaLiberty, community service is cyclical.

As a lifelong Waterville resident, LaLiberty, 63, said that “all the opportunities I had came as a result of a generous philanthropist.” If it weren’t for Harold Alfond donating the ice rink that enabled him to develop hockey chops, he said, he might not have gotten into Wesleyan University. Now, through his leadership as chairman of the board of Waterville Creates! — and of the Waterville Opera House before the two merged — LaLiberty is working to create new opportunities for others and for the city itself.

“The best thing about it is that it’s a chance to do something for a community that did a lot for me,” he said.

In “trying to nail down (the) financial stability” of Waterville Creates! and helping to launch the capital campaign for a downtown arts center, LaLiberty is one of the major players working to usher in a new age for the arts in Waterville. On April 25, he will receive the Distinguished Community Service award from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet.

LaLiberty, an attorney at Jabar, LaLiberty & Dubord LLC, said that the arts center planned for 93 Main St. is the “single most exciting project in Waterville in the last 60 years,” adding that it will tie together revitalization efforts across the city. If the capital campaign to raise $2 million for the plan succeeds, it will unite the Maine Film Center’s Railroad Square Cinema and galleries from Common Street Arts and the Colby College Museum of Art with classrooms, studios and rehearsal spaces. He is also proud of helping to bring increasingly high-caliber musicians to the opera house, including 2015 sellout The Charlie Daniels Band.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Jim to get that award,” said Shannon Haines, president and CEO of Waterville Creates!. “I think what makes Jim such a great person to be in leadership at this point in time is that he’s a lifelong resident of Waterville with a clear demonstrated passion in the arts and a background of (volunteerism) to back that up. We feel really fortunate to have him at this point in our existence. … He speaks in a really heartfelt, genuine way about the arts (enhancing) the local economy.”

LaLiberty has been on the boards of Waterville Opera House since 2012 and Waterville Creates! since 2014. The two organizations merged in November 2018. LaLiberty also joined the board of MaineGeneral Health in 2012. Before that, his volunteerism involved coaching for Waterville Area Youth Hockey Association for over a decade starting in the late 1980s, when his two children were growing up. He then served on the board of what is now the Central Maine Youth Hockey Association.

“As my kids aged out (of youth hockey), it was during the construction and renovation of the opera house and there were some issues they needed help with, so that was sort of my entrée into the arts,” said LaLiberty, who has developed a passion for photography.

Now, he and his wife, Julie, are the grandparents of five children.

While LaLiberty feels he “can’t do anything on a national level,” by volunteering in his hometown, LaLiberty hopes to make an impact. He said that Waterville has “hit the lottery in terms of resources” with the continued support of the Harold Alfond Foundation and Colby College.

“But the key ingredient is the number of talented and really smart community people behind us,” LaLiberty said.

 

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @megrobbins


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