Friday, June 30, 2023

Dignitaries hail groundbreaking for North Windham Wastewater Treatment Facility

By Ed Pierce

Dedication of the new Wastewater Treatment site on the grounds of Manchester School on Tuesday
Members of the Windham Town Council, state agencies, U.S.
Senators Susan Collins and Angus King from Maine,
RSU 14, and the Portland Water District break ground
at Manchester School in Windham on Tuesday morning for
the new North Windham Wastewater Treatment Facility.
When completed, the state-of-the-art site will remove
25,000 pounds of pollution from the local environment
each year. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
morning was something many Windham residents didn’t think was possible or could ever happen, but ground has been broken for the new state-of-the art facility and it was an event that drew everyone from U.S. senators to fourth graders.

After decades of proposals, studies, and rejections from voters at the ballot box, Windham residents resoundingly approved a proposed $40.4 million sewer and wastewater treatment project for North Windham in a special referendum. Partnering with the Portland Water District and RSU 14 to create the massive infrastructure project, the Windham Town Council set about to cover the initiative through a combination of grant funding, a $38.9 million award by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and North Windham TIF funding supported by North Windham businesses.

Once completed, a new wastewater treatment facility will be built on the grounds of Manchester School, which will address environmental issues in North Windham by removing 25,000 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants each year being dumped by septic systems into the aquifer and watershed. The installation of sewers is expected to stimulate significant economic growth in Windham and lead to development in the area by industries and businesses not willing to locate here because of associated septic system issues and costs.

Through an agreement between RSU 14 and the Town of Windham, in exchange for locating the new wastewater treatment site at Manchester school, the town will construct four new playing fields for youth sports at the school in the coming year. RSU 14 will also be able to shift its wastewater treatment operations at Windham High School to the new facility.

The new North Windham Wastewater Treatment facility will use Membrane Bio-Reactor technology with

innovative drip dispersal and will be the first system to use drip dispersal of this scale in Maine. This technology is designed to improve the quality of local groundwater and local waterways, and was selected for its reliability, flexibility, and cost effectiveness.

Portland Water District officials say that the facility will clean and filter community wastewater that is currently being discharged untreated into septic systems. The cleaned, high-quality water, which is extremely low in nitrogen and phosphorus, will be released into an advanced drip dispersal system that will be 2 feet underneath the new athletic fields at Manchester School. They say the sandy soils native to the area are ideal for this system.

Speakers at the dedication included Windham Town Council Chair Mark Morrison, RSU Schools superintendent Christopher Howell, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note, Portland Water District General Manager Seth Garrison, Windham Town Councilor Jarrod Maxfield, and Maine U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King.

Collins said she was surprised to learn that Windham did not have an existing sewer system, but praised

everyone who worked diligently to make this project a reality.

“Windham is the gateway to Maine’s beautiful lakes region and is a major retail center for the surrounding communities,” said Senator Collins. “This advanced wastewater treatment facility will support continued job and residential growth in Windham while also protecting the environmental health of Sebago Lake, Little Sebago, and other local bodies of water.”

She said this infrastructure is needed to accommodate economic development, business and job creation, and residential growth in the region while reducing the carbon footprint.

King said that Windham is among Maine’s most vibrant communities and is a wonderful place to start a business, raise a family, or visit for vacation. He said he admired the town for creating this new sewer system.

“This new wastewater facility will help the town modernize its infrastructure to attract new businesses and provide families with a high-quality of life – all while carefully preserving local ecosystems. I was proud to support Congressionally Directed Funding for this project and look forward to watching Windham’s growth for years to come.”

Creating the new facility comes at a time when economic growth in Windham has been stalled because of the lack of a community wastewater disposal system. Studies have also found rising pollutants in the groundwater, threatening the quality of well water and the environment.

Garrison said Portland Water District draws its water from Sebago Lake and the water is so clean, it doesn’t need to be filtered. By partnering with the Town of Windham to create the new wastewater treatment facility, PWD is helping ensure Sebago Lake stays clean for future generations, he said.

Funding to Support the North Windham Wastewater Project included a $38.9 million Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund Award; a $3.25 million SRF Debt Forgiveness Grant, $1.7 million in American Rescue Plan Funds allocated to the town, $2 million in Congressional Direct Spending sponsored by

Senators Collins and King, and $1.5 million from Cumberland County Government.

Morrison recognized Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts for his vision, expertise and leadership in seeing this project through to fruition and said long after Tibbetts is retired, he believes that Tibbetts’ contributions to the town will pay dividends for residents.

Maxfield said he was overjoyed to see the groundbreaking finally take place for the North Windham Wastewater Treatment facility.

“They said it couldn’t be done, never going to happen,” Maxfield said. “Never going to happen is happening today. Windham is getting things done by always working with others. Let us celebrate the power of perseverance and partnership.”

He said the new North Windham sewer system is 40 years overdue and will solve long-standing environmental and economic challenges for Windham.

“The advanced MBR system will provide for a cleaner environment and be a model for other Maine communities to follow,” Maxfield said. “This system will support business growth, new job opportunities and affordable housing options. And this new growth combined with our state and federal funding partners will guarantee no tax rate increase for our residents even with an expense of $38.6 million. This is remarkable feat for all involved and something Windham and the region can be proud of.” <

Raymond couple welcome Darfur immigrants for July 4th celebration

By Nicole Levine

During the summer, Raymond residents Roberta “Bobbie” Gordon and her husband George, welcome immigrants from Darfur, now living in Maine, to their home for their annual 4th of July celebration.

George Gordon of Raymond, left, and his
wife, Roberta 'Bobbie' Gordon, right, visit
with El-Fadel Arbab, who emigrated to
Maine in 2004 from Sudan. Every year
the Gordons welcome immigrants from
the Darfur region of Sudan to their home
for a 4th of July Celebration.
This event originally began with 45 people and has now grown to about 200. This will be the first year returning to this celebration since 2019, when it was indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. Bobbie and George provide their guests with traditional 4th of July barbecue food, books and toys for the children, and a place to gather on the holiday for all Darfurians. The people from Darfur bring side dishes and desserts that originate from their country. Together they play games to help learn English and interact in an engaging group setting.

One year during a previous 4th of July celebration, a man sitting across from Bobbie stared at her with a confused look on his face. He then asked her “Why are you doing this?” He was confused about how somebody could give themselves so wholeheartedly over to another culture and help them while wanting absolutely nothing in return.

To that Bobbie responded, “It’s from the heart. This is what's in us and this is what we want to do, and we are happy to do it.”

The annual gathering first began in 2008 when Bobbie retired, and she was looking for opportunities to fill her time. Searching for volunteer positions, she gravitated toward the community of immigrants from Darfur, who were now living in Portland.

She and another colleague decided to create a program to help these Darfur immigrants become acclimated to the area, learn to speak English, and connect with fellow Mainers. They were originally funded by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Through this program, they spoke locally to different groups, spreading awareness, and hoping to raise funds to help this cause. Through their efforts, they also generated support and resources, enabling them to acquire and ship stoves powered by the sun to Chad, where many Darfurians were living during ongoing violence in Sudan. By eliminating the need to search for firewood, the lives of many women were protected from recurring violent encounters in the region.

During her time organizing and running this program, Bobbie met El-Fadel Arbab, who immigrated from

Sudan in 2004.

“We got right into the core of what his journey was all about,” she said. They would spend hours together where Bobbie would mentor El-Fadel, to help him learn English.

Following their time together, El-Fadel would not accept a ride home, but instead walked, so he was able to absorb what they had discussed, and to clear his head of any trauma that was discussed.

El-Fadel is the Community Outreach Coordinator of an organization called the Fur Cultural Revival. He gives speeches and advocates to end violence in Sudan, including several schools, the STAND (Students Take Action Now) Conference, the Holocaust Survivors Conference, and many more organizations.

His goal is to educate people and create a community that works towards ending the violence in Sudan.

“We the people have the power,” he said, explaining how it is up to the people to drive desired change themselves.

Like many of the lives Bobbie and George have touched, the 4th of July holds a special place in El-Fadel’s heart. “This was a golden opportunity for us,” he said, when referring to the gatherings hosted by the Gordons.

El-Fadel looks to the 4th of July to honor the people who have lost their lives for the freedom that we have today in America.

“I am hoping and praying that one day this kind of freedom will come to my people,” he said.

Immigrating to a new country is often an extremely difficult and harrowing journey and support from

locals is what helps connect and integrate people to become one community.

“It’s really [through] the Maine community that we are able to get support and help,” says El-Fadel, giving credit to the Mainers who have contributed, and emphasizing the importance of citizens helping one another.

By holding this 4th of July Celebration, Bobbie Gordon said she’s able to celebrate this great American tradition, and to include people of other cultures who can also now appreciate the freedom that we have in the United States.

Volunteering to tutor or mentor immigrants in need of help, is a great beginning to build and become one community, she said.

For further information about how to become involved in volunteering to help immigrants, please contact Bobbie Gordon by sending an email to <

Friday, June 23, 2023

Windham High softball captures first Class A State Title

By Matt Pascarella

For the first time since 1995 when softball was Class B, Windham softball has captured the Class A State Championship. Ranked second in Class A South and facing Class A’s No. 1 ranked Oxford Hills, Windham took control of the game early and worked hard to churn out a 3-1 victory at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham on Tuesday, June 20.

Windham High junior Brooke Gerry, senior Hannah
Heanssler, and sophomore Kennedy Kimball hoist the 
2023 Maine Class A State Softball Championship
trophy after Windham won the title buy defeating
Oxford Hills. 3-1, at the University of Southern
Maine in Gorham on Tuesday, June 20.
“No words can even describe it,” said Windham senior Hannah Heanssler, who dove for an amazing catch early in the game. “It’s the exact way I’ve always wanted my season and my career as a softball player to end and playing for this team has been incredible and I cannot put it into words how amazing it is.”

Heanssler said that going into her final prep game, she was going to use everything she had and was going to play all out and do anything for the team. She said playing with this group of girls she’s grown up with has made the season memorable.

According to Heanssler, everyone played their positions incredibly and their energy was amazing. She said everyone on the Windham team wanted to win and worked together to make it happen.

Oxford Hills put one run on the scoreboard in the first inning to take an early lead, but Windham answered in the bottom of the first when junior Brooke Gerry reached on an error and sophomore Stella Jarvais and junior Jaydn Kimball then walked. Sophomore Kennedy Kimball’s flied out and Gerry scored on a wild pitch. Jarvais was at third base ready to bolt; and bolt she did, scoring her team’s second run. Windham led 2-1 after one inning.

In the third inning, Gerry singled, and freshman Addison Caiazzo walked. Jaydn Kimball singled, scoring Gerry and Windham had a 3-1 lead.

“This is definitely surreal,” said Windham varsity softball coach Darcey Gardiner. “Our willpower earned this win. From Day One we have said one pitch at a time. The focus and the one pitch at a time motto is how we keep that composure to win. Making the adjustments when we’re up to the plate, making the adjustments when we’re on defense, every pitch you are doing something different ... I’m really proud of them for keeping their composure and pulling it out.”

Gardiner also said that this was the first time two females served as coaches during the Class A State Championship Game and it’s always a big deal when females coaches compete together.

After the third inning, the game went scoreless for over three innings, as both teams were evenly matched. Windham’s defense often left Oxford Hills runners stranded on base at the end of innings.

It all came down to the top of the seventh inning. Oxford Hills’ first two batters lined out and grounded out. On a 1-2 count, Oxford Hills hit the ball right to Gerry, who threw to first base for the out and secured Windham’s first-ever state Class A softball championship.

In the game, Gerry pitched 7 innings, gave up 4 hits, struck out 11, and only walked one Oxford Hills batter.

“It felt great, we really worked as a team this season,” said Gerry. “Staying focused and taking it one pitch at a time [led to the win]. We kind of got rattled a little bit in the first inning, but then we remembered one pitch at a time, ‘control the controllables’ and we came back in the bottom of the inning. Our communication went well, and in the dugout our energy was over the top.”

Windham had escaped a high-pressure situation point in the top of the sixth inning with two outs, with Oxford Hills runners on first base and third base. Gerry said that Windham had to breathe and remember they had each other’s back, trusting one another, and that’s exactly what they did. Those runners remained on base as the inning ended.

Gerry said nerves are a sign a good thing is coming, and the Windham team interpreted those nerves as a sign that they would succeed, but they were careful to not get too cocky about it.

Windham freshman Oakley McLeod said they played well together as a team and fed off each other’s energy. In hitting, fielding and all-around, she said that Windham shined.

“Our strategy was mental toughness,” said the Windham’s catcher, Jarvais. “Knowing the crowd was going to be big we had to dial in and trust each other and focus on pitch by pitch what we were going to do, and I think we did that very well.”

Jarvais said with every pitch it’s a different spin, a different call, a different mindset of how Gerry’s going to execute it. Jarvais said what Gerry did was that she dialed her in and trusted her. Their passion showed, and this was definitely a team win. <

Windham Summerfest promises to be a day loaded with fun

By Masha Yurkevich

Starting with the opening parade at noon Saturday, June 24, Windham Summerfest will continue to be a day filled with fun activities, music, and food capped off by a spectacular fireworks show after dark.

Windham's popular Summerfest celebration returns Saturday,
June 24 with a full slate of free activities intended to bring
unity to the community at Windham High School. Events
include a parade starting at 10 a.m. and fireworks after dark.
Deb Matthews has served as the chair of the Windham Summerfest Committee for the last four years and has been with Summerfest off and on since about 2007.

“Summerfest has always been a family-oriented event,” says Matthews. “Our goal is to bring multiple generations of families together to spend the day enjoying each other and our many activities.”

It has been a challenge to keep Summerfest running smoothly.

“I was involved in the beginning when the committee asked me to coordinate a craft fair for them. I was in charge of the Windham Athletic Boosters Craft Fair at that time, Matthews said. “My husband and I were involved for a few years. About 2013 it was running out of steam, volunteers were exhausted and they struggled to find committee members. They discussed cancelling Summerfest. The Windham Parks and Recreation Department and many others tried to revitalize Summerfest. They started us on the path we are on today.”

The general idea and motto of this year’s Summerfest is "Bringing Unity to the Community.”

According to Matthews, Windham Summerfest is a family friendly event, and all ages are encouraged to attend and enjoy a fun-filled day.

“Each year we try to bring in new activities, demonstrations, music and fun. I want to see our neighbors interacting with all our vendors,” she said. “We encourage each vendor to make their booth fun, attractive and enticing to draw people in.”

This year the crafter and vendor village is full of beautiful items to purchase, and it could be a perfect time to get some early Christmas shopping done.

“The best thing for me personally is that the entire event is free,” Matthews said. “Non–profits sell food to raise money for their individual organizations. I want you to come and spend the day. If you cannot afford to spend money at this time, that is okay, pack a lunch and come play.”

This year, Mrs. Maine will also be part of the Summerfest activities. Amanda Shute, Mrs. Maine America 2023, is an Auburn resident and says she’s excited to proudly pay homage to her husband's hometown of Windham at Summerfest. Shute was selected as the local title holder of Mrs. Auburn in May 2022 and was awarded the state title on April 3 during the annual Mrs. Maine America Pageant this year. She will compete at Nationals at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas in August.

“My year consisted of making community appearances to advocate and fundraise for several charities,” says Shute. “In June of 2022, I launched a non-profit called, ‘Get Cyber Fit,’ which is aimed to educate families on creating healthier online habits. I have proudly invested over $60,000 in services to the community within the past year, working with Educate Maine's Tech Night, ran several tables at Family Events, and built a social media page focused on online safety education.

Shute said that as Mrs. Maine, she has a wider reach to equip families with the knowledge to have safer online experiences.

Holding the title of Mrs. Maine America awards her the opportunity to carry out her dreams by paying her success forward and amplifying her community work, along with elevating the voice of other women and the causes they are passionate about in the Mrs. America Program.

Shute’s mission statement is "Pay your Success Forward" and she’s ready to participate in Windham Summerfest.

“I have used over a decade of experience to identify a need and use my knowledge to help drive change for such a critical and growing need,” she says. The Windham Summerfest Parade will help to celebrate Shute's community impact. “

You can follow Shute’s journey and show support on social media by finding her on Instagram @mrsmaineamerica2023. She is still working toward her fundraising goals and can be supported through Venmo @Amanda_Shute.

Keeping Kids Safe will also be a part of this year’s Windham Summerfest. Its founder, Michael O’Neal, served as a part-time Deputy Sheriff for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department for more than 17 years, and founded Keeping Kids Safe in 2008. The organization offers personal safety training and teaches the Grip, Dip, and Spin technique that could help save the lives of children from predators.

O’Neal also teaches various other child-friendly and educational programs like Anti-Bullying and Internet Safety Date escape.

“We teach our kids the Stop, Drop, and Roll method for fire safety, but we never teach our kids what to do if a stranger might grab them,” said O’Neal.

Keeping Kids Safe became part of the annual Summerfest activities in 2015 and has been helping to educate the community about simple methods to keeping themselves and their children safe.

Summerfest is entirely free to attend and kicks off with the opening parade down Route 202 to Windham High School and will be followed by many fun activities, bands, food, games and vendors behind the high school. <

Friday, June 16, 2023

WHS swimming star recipient of prestigious Doug Springer Scholarship

By Ed Pierce

Whether in the pool or in the classroom, Hannah Heanssler always gives it her best and that has resulted in her selection as the recipient of the 2023 Doug Springer Scholarship, a $5,000 award given to a graduating high school senior for demonstrating a strong commitment and service to her swim team, school, and community.

Windham High School graduate Hannah
Heanssler is the recipient of the $5,000
Doug Springer Scholarship for 2023
presented by the Maine Swimming and 
Diving Hall of Fame.
Heanssler graduated ninth in her class at Windham High School on June 11 and will attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the fall. At WHS, she was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and the Key Club and participated in swimming, field hockey, and softball throughout high school.

Lee Crocker lives in Windham and is the President of the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame, which presented the scholarship to Heanssler.

“Doug Springer was an outstanding coach at Old Town High School. He was inducted into the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame in 2021,” Crocker said. “To give back to Maine Swimming, Doug has established this scholarship in the amount of $5,000 for each of the next five years and possibly longer. His criteria is to recognize a high-school age senior, boy or girl, that is not necessarily the top swimmer on the team, but someone that has dedicated themselves through strong service to not only their swim team but also their school and their community. Doug has asked the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame Committee to establish an application process and review and select a winner each year.”

Crocker said that Heanssler was very humble and honored to receive this scholarship and recognition for her efforts academically and in athletics for Windham High School.

Heanssler’s swimming coach, Peter Small, said she is a deserving recipient of the scholarship.

“Hannah has a strong balance in many aspects within the swimming community. She has a very strong work ethic, has succeeded at a high level, is a team leader and motivator, is a wonderful role model and has volunteered time with younger swimmers,” Small said. “Her contributions to the swimming community in Windham are something that Doug Springer would be proud to see.”

According to Small, Heanssler is very humble about her accomplishments and talents to the point that she might downplay them at times. He said her ability to motivate through a “lead by example” style is one of the shining aspects of what she brought to the WHS program.

“Hannah approaches everything, from her academics to field hockey, softball and swimming the same way: preparation and embracing every opportunity. Hannah prepares herself for all opportunities and challenges herself with those opportunities. Hannah isn't afraid to try something and fall short. Some student-athletes at times are afraid of failing and it holds them back from succeeding,” Small said. “Hannah embraced opportunities. Every practice she challenged herself, whether it was in improving technique or handling a sprint set, she always looked forward to the challenge. I think being a multiple sport athlete is also a major benefit. When student-athletes participate in multiple sports, the carry-over from one sport to the other is so very noticeable. Hannah has greatly benefited from balancing participating in all three seasons.

Small said that Heanssler has opened doors for herself by taking advantage of opportunities that exist.

“She has always looked to grow, to challenge herself, and to be the best version of herself that she can be. She does this not for accolades, but by an internal drive and growth mindset,” he said. <

Amazon Prime adds television series filmed in Lakes Region

By Ed Pierce

Justin Fortin’s dream of having his television drama filmed in Maine and using an all-New England cast to finally reach a much larger audience has come true. Amazon is currently airing the first season of “Hearts of New England” and will also add the second season of the series sometime this summer.

A television series filmed at locations in and around the
Lakes Region of Maine is now airing on Amazon Prime.
Shown in a scene from Season 1 of the 'Hearts of New
England' series are, from left, Caitlynn McCauley, Justin
Fortin and Kris Salvi. COURTESY PHOTO 
Fortin hopes that eventually Amazon will show all five planned seasons for the series that he created in 2018 and has been filmed at locations around Sebago Lake, including at beaches in both Windham and Raymond and scenes at various Lakes Region locations such as at the Windham Barber Shop on Roosevelt Trail and at other places in Maine.

“People across Maine have been very good at letting us film at their locations, especially at restaurants,” Fortin said. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to do that in the Lakes Region and in Auburn and Oxford.”

An actor, model, writer, and producer, Fortin owns Maine Event Films, and said that many of 70 to 80 cast members and production crew for the television series was found through local theater groups.

“Many of the actors are people who’ve done theater and community plays before,” he said. “But in filming year-round as we do for this series, a lot of people have jobs and it’s tough to get them during the week. We try to film whenever we can and accommodate their schedules.”

According to Fortin, the “Hearts of New England” series has been very popular with Maine viewers since its inception, originally airing on Great Falls TV, which can be found when subscribing to Maine Event Films on You Tube. But that audience will grow substantially as more viewers watch the series on Amazon Prime, which is nationwide.

Married and the father of five children, Fortin was born in Lewiston and attended high school in Poland. He started acting professionally in 2016 after auditioning and landing a role in the film “Paper City Burnout” and came up with the idea to create “Hearts of New England” several years later. He’s also had leading roles in several other films and has directed a vampire film called “My Co-Worker is a Vampire.”

He currently is employed as a benefits specialist at Unum and films “Hearts of New England” when he can fit it into his busy schedule.

Whatever he’s doing with the television series though is working and it has connected with audiences, picking up 119 IMDB awards so far and the production has been honored as a selection for film and television festivals in more than 50 different countries and in many different U.S. states.

“We plan on having the world premiere for the third season of ‘Hearts of New England’ next March in Windham at Smitty’s Cinema,” Fortin said. “They have hosted the premieres of the first and second seasons there previously and the reception we’ve received there has been great.”

So far, a total of four complete seasons of the series have been filmed, but only two have aired on You Tube. Episodes for Season Five of “Hearts of New England” are currently in the process of filming.

As far as being added to the Amazon Prime lineup goes, Fortin said that he’s thrilled to have the Maine series to be included among the shows that the network airs.

“It’s certainly a much larger audience for ‘Hearts of New England’ and something we’re very grateful for,” he said. “They’ve made it so viewers can watch the entire first season in one setting without commercials.”

By mid-July, the second season of the series is expected to air on Amazon Prime with subsequent seasons to be added eventually and available for viewers and subscribers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“Hearts of New England” is about a military veteran, played by Fortin, who comes home to Maine trying to find peace from war but shortly after his arrival back home, he’s reminded that his father is connected to the mob. He’s also caught in a love triangle between characters played by Caitlynn McCauley and Kris Salvi, and it seems like his quest for peace in his life turns out to be a never-ending war. <

Friday, June 9, 2023

Valedictorian aims to make difference through interaction with community

By Ed Pierce

Al Potter is confident that everyone, no matter who they are, can change the world and that we all possess the power we need inside ourselves to make a difference. As Windham High School’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian, Potter says he knows that life is so much more than academics and has strived to fill his life with activities, interests and pursuits to keep him grounded and connected to the community.

Windham High School's Class of 2023 Valedictorian 
Al Potter will attend Princeton university this fall to study
Astrophysical Science. He plans to become an astrophysicist
but remains closely connected to the community though a
variety of volunteer activities and interests.
At the beginning of his high school experience, Potter struggled with just being himself, but realized that following his own path and being his own person, is the only path to success for him. He finished first academically in his class and will be attending Princeton University in the fall studying Astrophysical Science.

“At Princeton, I plan to continue immersing myself in all of my passions I discovered and developed as a WHS student,” Potter said. “I hope to be an astrophysicist who performs groundbreaking research on the most fundamental questions about our universe. I hope my efforts will somehow change the world. I have heard from younger students who ask me how they can be like me to get into an Ivy League school. The first thing I tell them is they won’t go anywhere trying to be anyone but themself, be yourself and be proud of who you are.”

To get to this point, Potter has filled every waking moment with activity. He’s an Eagle Scout, Class of 2023 president, RSU 14 School Board representative from Windham High School, a member of the school's Quiz Team, and works at a Memory Care Assisted Living Facility in Portland called Fallbrook Woods.

“I do not live a life with free time, I like to fill my life with everything I can,” Potter said. “Many of my classmates probably don’t know the breadth of the activities I am involved in and how challenging it can be to manage my time while still succeeding academically. I think many of my classmates assume I spend my whole life studying, when actually I am involved in so many different things, I spend a lot less time studying than I should. My time management skills are one of my greatest strengths. I manage to fill my life with so many different activities and responsibilities while still having time to excel at an intense course load.”


In being so well-rounded, Potter has tried to stand out as someone who is passionate and highly involved in numerous activities while also contributing to each one in a deeply impactful and intimate way.

“It is this broad interaction in so many areas that has given me such a deep appreciation for community, opportunity, and perspective. My directive to be so vastly involved has provided me with a nuanced perspective on life, which has changed how I interact with those around me,” he said. “At Windham High School, I have worked to apply these passions in every segment of the community, becoming not just a student, but a scientist, writer, speaker, leader, technician, and more. It is my vast passionate interactions coupled with my ‘good human’ nature that I think teachers and school administrators most value in me. I think we should all strive to be good humans.”

His mother, Jennifer Potter, teaches sixth grade at Jordan Small Middle School and his father, Troy Potter, is a Certified Public Accountant at Scott Associate CPAs in Portland. His sister, Sophey Potter, is a rising senior at Manhattanville College in New York studying Musical Theater and is a WHS Class of 2020 graduate.


Looking back at his early days as a student in Raymond, Potter said he is grateful for every teacher he had in elementary and middle school.

“Unlike many students, I find that I have connected personally with every teacher over the last 13 years. They have all had unique impacts on my life,” he said. “Ms. Wiley, my kindergarten and first grade teacher, showed me to channel ecstatic energy into my passions and schoolwork, rather than disrupting the class. Ms. Spencer taught me the value of hard work. Ms. Baseler enriched my creativity after learning to explore it with Mr. Newcomb.”

While attending Windham High School Potter says that his favorites classes were a tie between AP Physics with Mr. Rathbun and AP Chemistry with Dr. Bizier.

“I mention both of these classes because they were fundamental to my career choice of Astrophysics,” he said. “I love Chemistry, but I do not want to be a Chemist focusing solely on the microscopic. I love Physics, but I love Chemistry too much to be a physicist. Astrophysics allows me to continue both these passions, researching the microscopic world and seeing how it applies to the macroscopic, our universe, solar system, and our reality. I enjoyed these classes so much because they gave me a taste of complex fascinating science concepts that I had not experienced in lower-level classes. I got to learn about electron geometries and quantum mechanics which were so cool and fascinating. It is the fascination from these classes that made me love them so much, aside from all the science puns.”

In graduating as Class of 2023 President and Valedictorian, he’s accomplished two of his dreams.

“I wanted to be a Raymond student who not only succeeded academically but connected and interacted well with the student body and community as a whole,” Potter said. “To be Valedictorian is a great honor to me personally. At Jordan-Small Middle School, I attended Gifted and Talented classes from first grade to eighth grade with Mr. Newcomb, but I never actually academically qualified for these classes. I was the ‘“not so gifted’ gifted as Mr. Newcomb now puts it. To be Valedictorian, the highest high school academic honor, after never being quite ‘up to par’ as a middle and elementary student, shows that being Valedictorian is more than being smart and doing well on tests. I am not the smartest student at Windham High, because, if I have learned anything from the last 13 years, we are all uniquely gifted in our own ways. My GPA doesn’t define my intelligence, it defines my test scores, which clearly don’t define me holistically. When I look at those around me, those with higher scores and those with lower scores, I still see people who are just like me: passionate, kind, and hardworking, all in their own way. I hope that as Valedictorian I represent someone who students can look up to and see that, yes hard work pays off, but your GPA, SAT Score, or even failing one class won't define you. You don’t need to be a genius to change the world, you just need to be like Isaac Newton and sit under an apple tree while thinking about the world uniquely.” <

New monument to honor service of Windham Public Safety members

By Ed Pierce

Every day, the men and women of Windham’s public safety departments deliver assistance to the public when emergencies arise, extinguish dangerous fires, and provide residents with 24-hour protection. That commitment and dedication to the community is about to be recognized through a unique monument that will stand for years in the town.

Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby, left, and Windham
Police Chief Kevin Schofield review a drawing of the new
Windham Public Safety Monument that be unveiled and 
dedicated at the Windham Public Safety Building on
Sept. 12. The monument recognizes the service,
dedication and commitment of fire, rescue, dispatchers and 
law enforcement personnel working in Windham over the
decades. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
The new Windham Public Safety Monument will be a lasting way to recognize the contributions that police officers and firefighters have made to the town through decades of service and will be unveiled and dedicated in a ceremony at Windham’s Public Safety Building on Gray Road on Sept. 12. It is intended as a lasting tribute to anyone who has served as a member of the Fire/Rescue, Police, Rescue Association, or as a dispatcher for the Town of Windham and will be surrounded by special brick pavers making up the courtyard around the monument.

The monument itself is black granite and will stand 6 feet in height with white lettering and containing the logos of the Windham Police and the Windham Fire/Rescue Departments. There will be space to memorialize the names of police officers or firefighters should they perish in the line of duty in the future but the main intention behind creation of the memorial is to honor those who work or have worked in public safety positions here.

Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield said he’s proud of the efforts that have been made to bring this project to fruition.

“This is something we’ve worked hard at over the past few years,” Schofield said. “This recognizes service to the community, and it means a lot to me and to the members of the police department.”

Planning for the new monument began several years ago when construction of a $4.3 million expansion of the Windham Public Safety Building opened.

Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby pointed out that that back when the old Public Safety Building for the town was first built in 1988, none of the town’s firefighters were full-time staff members and Windham only had about 15 police officers on duty. He said that through the decades as Windham has grown, the town now employs four full-time firefighter-paramedics, 12 full-time firefighter EMTs, four full-time shift captains, two full-time deputy chiefs, 1 fulltime fire-rescue administrative coordinator, and a fulltime fire-rescue chief, along with per diem and call company members. And Windham’s police force has also doubled in size to 30 officers.

“Certainly, in terms of numbers, past members, volunteers, and call company members, hundreds of individuals have served with the Windham Fire Department,” Libby said. “The hope is we never have to put a name on the monument, but it acknowledges all of their service to this community.”

He said that the monument will serve as a permanent reminder of those who have worked through the years to keep the town safe.

Eight paver stones have been sold to this point and will be dedicated to past or current members of the Windham Police Department, Windham Fire Department, dispatchers, or other Windham public safety personnel.

A few more paver stones are available and may be purchased for the Public Safety Building courtyard for $120. Past members or their families can purchase a paver with the member’s name and years of service on the pavers. To purchase a paver stone or to offer a donation for the monument, call Nancy Graves at 207-892-1911.

The monument itself is being funded by the Town of Windham although any business or supporter offering a donation, regardless of amount, would be greatly appreciated, Libby and Schofield said.

Donations can be sent to Town of Windham Public Safety Memorial Fund, 375 Gray Road, Windham, ME 04062. Those making donations are reminded to make checks payable to Windham Fire/Rescue Department.

Schofield said that in addition to the monument several family members of former law enforcement officers here in the past have donated items including leather gear and a service revolver to the Windham Police Department dating from the time of their service in Windham. Those items will be enshrined in a special display on the second floor of the Public Safety Building along with a plaque dedicated to their service to the community. <

Friday, June 2, 2023

Taking checkered flag in first ACT race lands Windham racer in record books

By Ed Pierce

Windham’s Brandon Barker joined some prestigious auto racers when he entered the record book by winning his first race on the American Canadian Tour at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire on May 21. Barker, 26, is only one of three drivers to win in their first ACT start, with the late Dale Earnhardt and DJ Kennington being the only others to accomplish that feat.

Brandon Barker of Windham won his first 
race on the ACT Tour at Lee USA Speedway
in New Hampshire on May 21. He entered
the record books along with the late Dale
Earnhardt and Canadian driver DJ
Kennington as the only drivers to win
an ACT race in their only ACT start.
Barker is currently in the middle of a busy 2023 racing schedule that includes 35 races running from March through November. He’s been racing mostly super late cars but chose to enter the ACT’s New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 race driving a late model car at Lee USA Speedway and defeated 24 other drivers to claim the checkered flag there.

He took the wheel of the Sullivan Construction 0NH car to the pole position in the ACT race with current top rookie Andrew Molleur to his outside after both earned prime racing positions in preliminary heats. Barker grabbed the early lead and then regained it late in the race. He traded first place back and forth with driver Jimmy Renfrew until lap 145 when Renfrew spun out. With just five laps remaining, Barker held off a challenge from driver Gabe Brown to earn his first American Canadian Tour victory in just his first and only start on the ACT Tour. In winning, Barker joined an elite list of ACT winners in their only start which includes Earnhardt’s victory at Cayuga Motor Speedway in Ontario in 1983 and longtime NASCAR Pinty’s Canadian Series standout Kennington who won at the Lee USA Speedway in 2004.

“What I love about racing is the competition part of it mostly,” Barker said. “But also having a good group of crew guys going to the races, they make it fun. The challenges I’ve found about racing professionally have got to be the money aspect of it. It’s so dang expensive. I’m extremely grateful I got a good group of sponsors and people backing me.”

His start in racing came when Barker was 5 just turning 6 in 2003 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway’s go-karting series. His grandfather obtained a couple of go-karts for Barker and his cousin to race there, and it prompted Barker to go on and pursue an auto racing career outside of his day job working for the Maine Turnpike Authority.

“Right now, I’m racing Super Late Models basically every weekend. And late model a few times,” he said. “I race on the Pro All Star series for Sam Snow, the Granite State Pro stock series, and the NASCAR weekly series Pro stocks at Lee USA Speedway for Archie St. Hilare, and a few American Canadian Tour Late Models for Chad Sullivan.”

He’s raced in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina and his sponsors include DLM Property Care, NLM Custom Homes, Keen Parts, Corvette Parts, Sam Snow Construction, CBS Lobster, R.N. Craft, DiRenzo Rentals, and Maietta Towing.

“What I hope to accomplish in my racing career before I am finished is I have yet to win a Pro All Star series race. I really want to do that, it’s the only series I have raced in where I haven’t won,” Barker said. “If it happens and not at Oxford, then winning the Oxford 250 would be one because that’s my favorite race and one of the biggest races in the country. The most challenging track I’ve raced on has got to be the Thompson Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut. I have no idea why I’m terrible there, it’s a high bank of 5/8 mile with long straightaways. It’s the second fastest track we go to. Speed doesn’t bother me but I’m just not very good there.”

According to Barker, Maine has many great drivers like Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe, and Joey Doiron because of the abundance of great racetracks in the state.

“Beech Ridge is closed now but I think that flat tracks are the toughest tracks to get a handle on and if you do, you go to places with banking,” he said. “It helps your car’s handling usually, so if your good at the flat tracks you can usually go anywhere and be competitive.”

He credits other auto racers from Windham for giving him confidence and offering sound advice about racing when needed.

“Support from others in Windham comes from friends like Brad Babb and Bobby Timmons,” Barker said. “They’re older than me so they were always a step ahead. I looked up to them and would ask their advice. Whether it was good advice or not, it seems to have worked out.”

Barker’s girlfriend, Sara Wear, has a brother and father who also race, so she is used to the competitive aspect of the sport and tries to attend as many of Barker’s races whenever possible.

His next race is scheduled for Saturday, June 3 at Riverside Speedway in Northumberland, New Hampshire for the Granite State pro stock series and then on Sunday, June 4, he’ll compete at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine in the Pro All Star series.

But if he doesn’t win any further races this year, Barker will remember 2023 for his history making victory in the ACT New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150.

“First, you never forget your first win, that is the most satisfying feeling, winning your first one,” he said. “But winning your first touring race feels great because it proves you can do it and you belong to be out there.” <

Summerfest celebration draws closer in Windham

By Ed Pierce

Get ready to have fun as the 2023 Windham Summerfest celebration returns on Saturday, June 24 to the grounds of Windham High School.

Sandy Donnelly of Windham, left, who operated the Red
Sands Restaurant in town for many years, has been selected
as the Grand Marshal of the 2023 Windham Summerfest,
while retired Windham Police Captain Bill Andrew, right,
who served the community for more than three decades,
has been selected as the 2023 Modern Woodmen of
America Hometown Hero. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
Windham Summerfest is an annual event that honors and celebrates the rich history and people of the Town of Windham and fosters a sense of community. It’s entirely free and features live music, interesting activities, craft vendors, food booths and much more. Summerfest’s theme for 2023 is “A Little Bit of Everything,” and a quick review of featured attractions and activities reveals that’s an accurate summary of what participants will experience at this year’s celebration.

Deb Matthews is the chair of Windham’s Summerfest Committee and said that she feels Summerfest is so popular in the community because the committee focuses on making it family friendly.

“I want you to come to Summerfest with your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and kids of all ages,” she said. “I want you to have fun, be engaged by the activities we offer, and leave with a smile on your face. By making all activities free, a family can come together and enjoy themselves without the thought of cost.”

According to Matthews, the hardest part of putting Summerfest together each year for the committee is making sure that they are making it better than the last.

“I do not want to repeat year after year. I feel like adding new activities or demonstrations will keep it fresh for all of us,” she said.

Matthews said a partial list of entertainment and activities for Summerfest in 2023 includes Escape Rooms; a 24-foot Rock Wall for climbing; The Lost & Found Band; a Dance Demonstration by members of the Maine Dance Center; the Radio Revival Band; a Golf Ball Drop; the Stone Broke Band; the Cousin ITT Band; Roaming Magician Phil Smith; a Meet and Greet with the Princesses and Heroes; the annual Summerfest 3v3 basketball tournament; Juggler Jason Tardy; the
Party Palooga balloonists; and Mr. Drew and his Animals Too. The day of fun wraps up with a fireworks extravaganza after dark.

Matthews said she has a hard time selecting her personal favorite booth to visit every year.

“There are so many I look forward to visiting each year. I love the crafter/vendor booths for their creativity and talents,” Matthews said. “I anxiously wait to see what the business booths will do for an activity at their booth to engage me.”

She said the Summerfest food booths are always a surprise.

“I never know what to expect and the food is always delicious,” Matthews said. “The community booths share how they are working to improve our communities and make it fun at the same time. I have made many lifelong friends from the people that participated in previous events and wouldn't change a thing.”

As in years past, the annual Summerfest Parade will kick things off for the day, starting at about Lotts Drive and then running up Route 202 (Gray Road) and ending in the WHS parking lot. Awards will be given for Best Depiction of the 2023 Theme: “A Little Bit of Everything” with award recipients receiving gift cards.

During the Windham Town Council meeting on May 23, Matthews shared with those in attendance the names of this year’s Summerfest Grand Marshal and the Modern Woodmen of America Hometown Hero.

Matthews said that the Grand Marshal must be a Windham resident and must demonstrate how they bring unity to the community and likewise, the Modern Woodmen choose the Windham Hometown Hero annually based upon similar ideals. Nominations were submitted earlier this year and the response from those nominating individuals to be honored this year was overwhelming, Matthews told town councilors.

This year’s Modern Woodmen Hometown Hero is retired Windham Police Captain Bill Andrew, a lifelong Windham resident, who retired from the Windham Police Department last September after three decades of serving and protecting the residents of the town.

Andrew graduated from Windham High School in 1992 and while attending school he was a member of the Junior Firefighters. After graduation he worked as a dispatcher for the police department for three years before deciding to become a police officer. He was the driving force in starting the canine unit for WPD under Chief Rick Lewsen. Through the years, Andrew also put many dangerous criminals behind bars, helped find lost children and led the charge each year for fundraising for the Maine Special Olympics, helping to organize the Windham portion of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

“I want to take a moment to reflect on what it means to not only be nominated as Windham’s Hometown Hero, but to have been chosen. This honor is truly humbling,” Andrew said. “When I embarked on my public safety journey, I wanted to give back to the community that I grew up in. As a Windham High School student, I started my path as a junior firefighter and EMT and I started to realize that giving to the community was rewarding and fulfilling. After high school, I continued to serve the community as a dispatcher and then a police officer. I was fortunate to have the opportunities, the trust and support of the Town of Windham throughout my 33 years serving the community, the businesses, the residents, and the visitors. I saw the town grow throughout that time and watch now from the sidelines as it continues to grow.”

Andrw said that he went through his career never thinking he was a hero, but just someone who was upholding their duty to serve and give back to the community.

“It is an honor to be chosen as the Hometown Hero because it is also honoring those who I have served with over my career. There are many heroes among us. The honor is not just receiving the award and recognition, but to have worked with and alongside the men and women that I had the honor and privilege to work with over those 33 years. I am truly humbled and honored. Thank you.”

Matthews said this year’s Summerfest Grand Marshal is Sandy Donnelly, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. Along with her husband and three children, she ran a local restaurant in Windham for 22 years and was involved in the restaurant business in town for more than 50 years.

Donnelly is well-known for her oatmeal bread and lemon meringue pie, but even more so locally for her generosity and willingness to help others. She was a Girl Scout Leader, a Boy Scout Leader, was involved in the Windham Athletic Boosters raising money to create the first lighted soccer field in Windham, and active in the Windham Chamber of Commerce. She was honored as the chamber’s “Businessperson of the Year” in 1984.

According to Matthews, Donnelly would always be there to help if an organization needed to raise money, opening her family’s restaurant for a fundraising dinner or to offer to help cook for a fundraiser at one of the schools.

Her friend and former employee, Barb Maurais, said this honor for Donnelly is greatly deserved.

“The family has been a fixture in the Windham community for over 50 years. They employed and supported hundreds of local students at their restaurant,” Maurais said. “She is a giver, from Scout leader, Athletic Boosters, Chamber of Commerce director, to the hostess with the most-est at Rustler's Restaurant, She has always been a doer, an organizer, and Windham's ambassador sharing her kind heart, that twinkle in her eye, and joyous laugh with every new friend that she meets, And her baking, lemon meringue pie, tapioca pudding, that whipped cream, and who could forget the legendary Oatmeal Bread. She exemplifies bringing unity to the community with every interaction.”

When Donnelly’s family shared the news with her that she will be honored as this year’s Summerfest Grand Marshal, Matthews said that Donnelly was speechless, and later as it began to sink in, she started practicing her pageant wave for the parade.

Along with all the other Summerfest activities, one of the most popular events is returning once again this year.

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Community Golf Ball Drop is back, with golf balls sold by the Sebago Lake Chamber of Commerce for $10 each, and a total of 1,000 golf balls available. The golf balls will be dropped from a Windham Fire Department Ladder Truck during Summerfest at 3 p.m. with the winner receiving 20 percent of the amount collected. If all golf balls are sold, the winner would receive $2,000 cash. Additional prizes will also be awarded. Proceeds from the golf ball drop will benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Charitable Trust for Feed the Need, helping provide for 12 food pantries across the Lakes Region. Winners will be announced at Summerfest at 7 p.m. and golf balls may be purchased in advance by visiting or by calling the chamber at 207-892-8265.

The Windham Summerfest Committee has been working on this year’s celebration since last June and its members include Deb Matthews (chair), Tommy Matthews (entertainment), Barb Maurais (vendors/crafters). Jacob Chouinard (3v3 basketball), and at-large members Tiffany Sinclair, Karen Rumo, Aaron Pieper, and Camille Swander. <