What’s your biggest challenge right now?

I would say that the biggest ongoing challenge is that there is constant demand for Maine’s natural resources, and somebody has to continue to stand up for them. And that’s what NRCM does. On the more immediate front, we’ve just had one of the most productive legislative sessions on behalf of the environment that we have had in decades and maybe ever. And so now my wonderful staff need to roll up their sleeves and help to implement all of these laws by participating in the rule-making procedures and all that kind of thing. So that’s a nice problem, a nice challenge to have.

Our new governor, Janet Mills, made climate change a central feature in her platform and there are as many as 35 new laws that have been passed related to climate change. So they include clean energy, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and it’s a fabulous array of things as well as a big framework law that set a goal for the state to be on 100% renewable energy by 2050, and to reduce our carbon emissions down to 80% by then. So these are all fabulous moves forward.

Who or what influenced you to work in the non-profit sector?

Well, I grew up in the ’60s, and there was a lot of activity then on the environmental front, women’s issues front. Um, just the political front. And so I don’t know that there was any person, but I definitely knew I wanted to be a part of changing the world. Nonprofit operations allowed me to do that. I have worked in several. I worked in the battered women’s movement when I first moved to Maine. I’ve worked on poverty and health care here in Augusta, and now I’m working on the environment. So as disparate as those may seem, they all fit together for me.

I do feel like we do (influence people to work in the nonprofit sector) these days because we’re involved with a lot of college interns and we have an NRCM rising aspect to our work, which is trying to get the 20- to 40-year-olds interested in being a part of democracy and making social change happen. And I think it is a lot about education first and foremost, but it’s also about the passion that leads you to want to make change. And I don’t know that you can engender that in somebody, but you can certainly help them make the connections between “I love hiking this mountain. Gee, if I don’t get involved in helping to protect this mountain, um, then shame on me.” So I think that’s what we’re trying to do here.

What skills do you value in the people who work for you?

Well, we have two basic approaches here that always work in tandem.

One is to have the skills to be the leaders of the various programs that we are focused on, like protecting the forest and the wildlife of Maine, protecting the waters of Maine, protecting the clean air and dealing with the climate change aspect of Maine. We also work with communities, and a lot of that work right now is focused on reducing plastics pollution and waste management. And then there’s also just everything that’s going on in the federal level. So we’ve created a whole federal project. So there’s that meeting people who can be very steeped in whatever issue it is to be able to lead us all toward the next objective,and then the next objective and where are the political windows of interest that we could drive the train through.

And then there’s what we call the outreach aspect. So we have a lot of wonderful people working here who are just interested, and try to get them to contact their local legislators at the moment when it matters, when a particular law or bill is being considered and we want them to vote a particular way, it’s extremely important that those constituents reach out either by phone, by email, by coming to the state house and testifying directly. All of those things make a huge difference. And so depending on who you are and how much effort you’re willing to put in, all of those things matter a lot. And we’re constantly trying to engage people in this work.

So those two things together, the expertise and getting citizens engaged in the process has been sort of the winning formula for the NRCM for the last 60 years. And we’re celebrating our 60th anniversary this year.

How do you and your staff work to overcome obstacles you encounter?

Well I would say it’s understanding the governmental process for one thing or the process of democracy, I guess I like to think of it as. And really getting down to the brass tacks on that on a daily basis and having a strategy for how we will try to move this protection forward or stop what we would consider a rollback of some environmental law because there’s always somebody on the other side pushing. That is the whole nature of the public policy debate. And so we understand that. And we are constantly trying to drive things forward, but we also have to step back and make strategies around the attempts to roll things back.

Everything that we do I believe is essentially about communication. And so we are communicating with people all the time, all through the day. All of us have a network of people, our media person, know all of (the media), our Facebook person, you know, is constantly creating and thinking about images of how we will communicate in that venue.

We have coalition partners, there are businesses, there are individuals, there are the members of NRCM. So we’re constantly thinking about how to best convey complex issues in a way that folks can understand them and know how to take action and not just be overwhelmed or depressed or whatever. Because really, public policy is an optimist’s sport. You have to be an optimist. You have to understand that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but when you lose, you just pick up the next year and you try it again. Or you wait until the right political moment or whatever it is, but you can’t either rest on the laurels of your victories or get sucked down into the depression of your losses. You just have to keep believing that you’re doing the right thing and you’re trying to move things forward.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given or received?

I’m going to drive right down the middle of that. As a nonprofit leader I have both learned from mentors but also try to pass on the notion that leadership is a lot about being transparent so that people understand what you’re doing and how you’re going about it and who you are and that they feel comfortable and trust you. That goes for not just the staff that works for you or the board of directors that you oversee, but the people out there who are seeing you in the paper or on the TV or whatever it is, like, oh, there’s somebody I could I could believe being truthful.

The other thing is that I get to work with a fabulous staff, there’s 30 of us. I’m inspired every day by the incredible people that I work with who, many of who have been here for over 20 years. My job is to just make sure that everything here is working as smoothly as possible so that they can just go do their job, right, not be fettered with problems or conflicts or that kind of thing. I feel that’s an important role for the leader.


Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.