Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sue Bonior closes a chapter - By Rob McClure

 Every so often, we come across people who we cross paths with that make us feel better about our fellow human beings. Sue Bonior is one of those rare people. Sue has been the administrative assistant for the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for nearly nine years. A journalist by trade, today is bittersweet for her because at the end of the day, she will begin a new chapter in life or in her words, “the start of a very personal journey.”

Bonior agreed to talk at 9 a.m. on her last day. Instead of a somewhat hurried and distracted dialogue, I was met with an infectious smile and a rare exuberance that only comes from someone who genuinely loves their job. 

“This is my dream job and I love sharing information,” said Bonior as she juggled phone calls, visitors, friends and hugs during the interview, recalling how she first landed the job after a 20-year career as a public information director in social services. Bonior loves information and there is no shortage of that at the Chamber of Commerce. The tiny office located at the corner of Roosevelt and Tandberg Trail is packed with maps, pamphlets, posters, business cards and flyers. The information is literally all over the walls. There is even free Wi-Fi advertised on the door. It is easy to see why someone who loves sharing information while helping people would find such a position so appealing. 

When asked what Bonior’s biggest accomplishment at the chamber was, she said, “Working with the Maine’s Lakes & Mountains Tourism Council, specifically being able to showcase the lakes region at the annual conference in Foxboro.” This gave her an opportunity to speak to others about something very dear to her heart and at the same time increase the tourism numbers two years in a row. Bonior was also instrumental in expanding the Chamber by adding the towns Limerick and Limington to the current town membership. The Chamber of Commerce which also represents the towns of Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham, making it one of the most active chambers in the State of Maine. Over 300 businesses are included in the local membership, according to Bonior.

Bonior believes the lakes region must continue growing businesses, but at the same time strike a balance to maintain the pristine beauty that draws so many of our visitors every year. Not only does Sebago Lake draw in thousands of visitors annually, it is also the water source for 15 percent of Maine's total population. She drew attention to important preservation and conservation organizations such as Loon Echo Land Trust and the Lakes Environmental Association that work hard to balance the need for business while maintaining lands and waterways. “It is essential the activist having a seat at the table,” according to Bonior, explaining the vision of balancing business and nature.

When asked Bonior what she felt was the biggest draw to the area, she gave a very thoughtful response. “People come here because it feels like home, it’s a comfortable place where families can camp, connect and have memories.” Bonior also pointed out the location is ideally situated as an accessible getaway in relation to Portland and other areas.
For now, her time is going to be spent with her mother whom she describes as“fearless”. 

Bonior credits both her mother and late father for inspiring her to always help others and serve a rare obligation in today’s often hurried and competitive world. One can’t help but sense a genuine loss to the region by Bonior’s departure, but there will be plenty of Mainers who will be leaving the “lights on” for her, hoping she returns for another chapter.

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