Friday, August 25, 2023

Recall ordinance measures provoke differing opinions in Windham

By Ed Pierce

The debate over recalling elected municipal officials before their term is completed and removing them from office has arrived in Windham and two tracks have emerged as to how to best establish procedures for adding this to the town charter. Earlier this summer, a citizen’s group launched a petition drive to create a recall ordinance and collected enough signatures of registered voters to place a referendum on the ballot in town this fall. The Windham Town Council also developed a recall ordinance and will vote to implement it at a council meeting on Tuesday night.

A citizen's petition to create recall procedures for town and
RSU 14 elected officials has received enough signatures to
be on the ballot this fall in Windham, but on Tuesday
evening the Windham Town Council will vote on a more
detailed recall ordinance to be added to the town charter.
While there are common aspects contained in each proposed ordinance, there also are some striking differences and the citizen’s group says that the town council ordinance is nothing more than a way to help protect elected officials subject to recall, which councilors and town administrators deny. Both groups say they are trying to be fair to voters and elected officials but put an ordinance in place in Windham that holds public officials accountable.

“Having a recall ordinance makes sense and provides a check and balance approach to local government,” said Barry Tibbetts, Windham Town Manager. “Ordinances with the least amount of uncertainty and with greatest clarity provide the least costly measures of implementation. I personally have always felt simple government, ordinances, rules etc., whenever possible are the best, this is not easy to achieve. The citizen petition did a good job in bringing this forward so that is a win for all, as with any initiative getting the “T’s” crossed and “I’s” dotted can be challenging.”

Kristen Day of Windham, who is part of the citizen’s group leading the petition drive for the recall ordinance referendum, says that there is nothing questionable or controversial about their proposal from a civic perspective.

“Ours is a non-partisan citizen’s initiative, and as such, we are proposing this language which we believe is in the best interest of every voting resident of Windham,” Day said. “The town has the opportunity to decide the outcome by doing their civic duty. And should it pass, any citizens can follow the process outlined in our Town Charter, as we have, to propose amendments to the ordinance.”

Under the terms of the citizen petition, any elected official may be recalled and removed from office by the qualified voters of the town. According to the petition, recall is intended to be used when, in the opinion of the number of voters hereinafter specified, an elected official, acting as such, has caused a loss of confidence in that official’s judgment or ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office.

The citizen’s group petition also specifies that any 25 qualified voters of the town may file with the Windham Town Clerk an affidavit containing the name of the official sought to be recalled and a statement of specific facts to support the grounds of recall. The Town Clerk would then send a copy of the affidavit to the official targeted for recall to the Windham Town Council. A petition would then be issued and must be returned within 30 days signed by registered voters of the town equal to at least 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the town during the last election for governor, but no less than 100 voters.

The Town Clerk would allow five days for the filing of legal challenges to the signatures on the petition. If no such challenges are filed, the Town Clerk would certify and submit the petition to the Town Council. At that point, the Town Council would give written notice to the official named in the recall and, if the official sought to be removed does not resign within five days, councilors would order an election to be held on a day fixed by them not less than 50 nor more than 60 days after the date of the Town Clerk’s certificate that a sufficient petition was filed.

The citizen’s petition also specifies that if any other town election is set to occur within 75 days after the date of said the Town Clerk’s certificate, the Town Council may, at its discretion, postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other election. If a vacancy occurs in the office after a recall election has been so ordered, the election shall nevertheless proceed as in this section provided. If the official sought to be recalled so requests, the WindhamTown Council shall make provisions for a public hearing on the matter, said hearing to take place not less than seven days prior to said election.

Petition details also ask that any official being recalled shall not be a candidate in the recall election. The nomination of candidates, the publication of the warrant for recall election, and the conduct of the same shall be in accordance with the provisions of the laws of the State of Maine relating to elections. Nomination petitions for candidates at the recall election shall be filed with the Town Clerk within 15 days after the date of the filing of the certificate of the Town Clerk as to the sufficiency of the recall petition.

Terms in the petition also require that the incumbent official shall continue to perform the duties of the office until the results of the recall election are certified. If the official is not recalled by voters, the official shall continue in office for the remainder of the unexpired term, subject to subsequent recall. However, if a subject is recalled by voters, the official would be removed upon the certification of the election results. In the event the recall petition is passed, the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes shall be deemed elected for the balance of the term of the official recalled.

The citizen recall measure also mandates that no recall petition shall be filed against an official with fewer than 60 days of term remaining or within three months after such official assumed office, nor, in the case of an official subjected to recall election and not removed thereby, until at least three months after that election. It also requires that no person who has been recalled from office or who has resigned from office while recall proceedings are pending shall be appointed to any town office or town board, commission, or committee within two years after such removal by recall.

If the referendum is approved by voters in November, it would replace all prior Town of Windham recall ordinances.

The language in the Windham Town Council’s proposed ordinance is more specific regarding certain provisions.

Under grounds for recall, elected town officials serving as a Town Councilor or a member of the Regional School Unit 14 Board of Directors elected by Windham voters could be recalled when, in the opinion of the number of voters specified an elected official has caused, through actions while in elected office, a loss of confidence in the official’s judgment or ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office.

The council’s proposed ordinance differs from the citizen’s petition in that it requires 75 qualified voters of the town to file with the Town Clerk an affidavit containing the name of the official sought to be recalled for actions in office, and a statement of specific facts of up to 200 words to support the grounds of the recall. The Town Clerk would then transmit a copy of the affidavit to the official who is the subject of the affidavit and to the Windham Town Council. The subject of the affidavit may submit a rebuttal statement within four business days of the Town Clerk’s transmission of the affidavit. Within five business days after the date of the filing of the affidavit, the Town Clerk would deliver to the 75 voters a sufficient number of copies of petition blanks for the requested recall.

The recall petition would have to be returned and filed with the Town Clerk within 30 days after issuance of the petition. Once returned, the Town Clerk would be required to determine that at least 15 percent of the number of participating voters in the last preceding gubernatorial election signed the petition. Once that is done, the Town Clerk would then deliver the petition to the Registrar of Voters, and the Registrar of Voters would have 10 business days to certify the number of signatures of qualified voters.

If the petition shall be certified to be sufficient by the Town Clerk and the Registrar of Voters, the Town Clerk shall allow five business days for the filing of legal challenges to the signatures on the petition. If no such challenges are filed, the Town Clerk would then certify and submit the petition to the Town Council. The Town Council would give written notice to the target of the recall and, if the official sought to be removed does not resign within five days, they would order an election to be held on a day fixed by them not less than 50 nor more than 60 days after the date of the Town Clerk’s certificate that a sufficient petition is filed.

Should any other town election occur within 90 days after the date of the certificate, the Town Council could, at its discretion, postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other elections. If a vacancy occurs in said office after a recall election has been so ordered, the election shall nevertheless proceed and if the official sought to be recalled so requests, the Town Council shall make provisions for a public hearing on the matter, said hearing to take place not less than seven days prior to such election.

The council’s proposed ordinance also mandates that if a member of the Town Council is recalled, any such vacancy shall be filled in accordance with Article II, Section 2.D of the Town Charter. If a member of the Regional School Unit Board is recalled, the Town Council shall select an interim director for the town to serve until the next annual municipal election. An election shall be held at the next municipal election to elect a director to fill the vacancy.

An incumbent official shall continue to perform the duties of the office under the council’s proposal until the results of the recall election are certified. If not recalled, the official shall continue in office for the remainder of the unexpired term, subject to subsequent recall. If recalled in the recall election, the official shall be removed upon the certification of the election results.

Terms of the town council’s ordinance require that no recall petition shall be filed against an official with fewer than 60 days of a term remaining or within six months after such official assumes office, nor, in the case of an official subjected to recall election and not removed until at least six months after that election.

The councilors’ ordinance specifies that the total number of votes to recall an elected official shall be no less than 25 percent of participating voters of the last preceding gubernatorial election. If the recall fails to meet this total, then the elected official shall not be recalled from office, regardless of the result of the vote on the recall. When a recall fails, the official shall not be subject to another recall petition until at least six months after the failed vote.

Tibbetts said that if the council votes on Tuesday evening to enact its recall ordinance, it would take effect in 30 days or on Sept. 29.

“The citizen petition if voted in the affirmative would take effect in November and replace the council’s action but those sections where the citizen petition is in conflict would be eliminated by a council vote,” Tibbetts said. “Since the citizen petition is an ordinance, the Windham Town Council can amend it at any time. Those amendments most likely would bring it back to the existing council ordinance tentatively approved on Aug. 29.”

If a charter amendment by the council is approved, it would override all the ordinances, replacing them, and according to Tibbetts that language is identical to the council ordinance.

“Another question relates to when this goes to a vote, that by charter states the council has 30 days to set the date, hence the November vote,” Tibbetts said. “The charter amendment would not allow any modifications unless 30 percent of participating voters in the last gubernatorial election approved of them if those changes were sought it could be by Council initiative or citizen initiative.”

Councilors also will vote Tuesday night to protect the integrity of the Windham Town Clerk position from partisanship by changing it from an elected position to an appointment. Linda Morrell has served as Windham Town Clerk for the past 28 years. <

School bell about to ring for students in Windham and Raymond

By Ed Pierce

As parents in Windham and Raymond exhale a sigh of relief that summer is winding down, students have just a few days left of vacation until classes resume next week.

Students in Windham and Raymond are preparing to return
to classes next week as school reopens for the
2023-2024 school year for all age groups.
At the six RSU 14 schools, teachers, staff members and administrators have been preparing to welcome back students for the 2023-2024 school year. And with children out and about on their way to classes, drivers need to be extra careful and pay attention in school zones and around school buses carrying students to and from school.

Preparing for the first day of class may seem daunting for parents who have endured registering their children for another year of school, purchasing new clothing and footwear, gathering school supplies, planning lunches, coordinating after-school care, and arranging transportation, but now that those tasks are completed, the countdown to the first bell of the school year is at hand.

In Raymond, elementary and middle school students will either attend Raymond Elementary School or Jordan-Small Middle School. Raymond students in Grade 1 to Grade 4 go to Raymond Elementary, while students in Grade 5 through Grade 8 attend Jordan-Small Middle School.

Beth Peavey is entering her fourth year as the principal at Raymond Elementary School and was the school’s assistant principal for three years prior to becoming principal.

Jordan-Small Middle School is led by Principal Michelle Brann, who is entering her second year in a leadership position there. Brann formerly served as the assistant principal at Lake Region Middle School.

The first day of school for Grades 1 to 4 at Raymond Elementary School is Tuesday, Aug. 29. Half of Raymond Elementary kindergarten students start classes on Thursday, Aug. 31, while the remaining half of RES kindergarten students will start school on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

In Windham, students in kindergarten through Grade 3 attend Windham Primary School. Grade 4 and Grade 5 Windham students attend Manchester School, while students in Grade 6 to Grade 8 go to Windham Middle School. High school students in Grade 9 to Grade 12 in both Raymond and Windham attend Windham High School.

Dr. Kyle Rhoads leads Windham Primary School as principal and has served in that role there for 16 years. Danielle Donnini is entering her 27th year of working at Manchester School and she has led the school as its principal since 2015.

This year, Windham Middle School has a new principal, Greg Applestein, who joins RSU 14 after serving three years as the principal at Bonny Eagle High School. Ryan Caron is entering his sixth year as the principal at Windham High School and formerly served as the principal at South Portland High School.

Christopher Howell has led RSU 14 as Superintendent of Schools since 2019. Christine Frost-Bertinent is the RSU 14 assistant superintendent and Christine Hesler is RSU 14’s Director of Curriculum.

The first day of school for Windham Primary School students in Grades 1 to 3 will be Tuesday, Aug. 29. Half of WPS kindergarten students begin school on Thursday, Aug. 31 and the remaining half of Windham kindergarten students start school on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Windham Middle School classes will begin Tuesday, Aug. 29. The first day of instruction for Windham High School students is Wednesday, Aug. 30.

For parents, RSU 14 uses Parent Square for school-to-home communications including mass notifications and urgent alerts, language translation for multilingual families, and to schedule parent-teacher conferences. The district also uses the Ride 360 app to view a student’s transportation assignment or to request changes to a student’s scheduled transportation. The Ride 360 app may be downloaded by visiting

Aaron Gant and Sharon Leeman serve as co-directors of transportation for RSU 14, while Jeanne Reilly is the RSU Director of School Nutrition.

Windham Christian Academy

All students attending Windham Christian Academy in kindergarten through Grade 12 will return to classes on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The first day of school for students in WCA’s Pre-K3 is Tuesday, Sept. 5 while the first day for students in WCA’s PreK4 will be Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Jackie Sands is in her 11th year of working for Windham Christian Academy and has served as the school’s principal since 2018. <

Friday, August 18, 2023

RSU 14 welcomes new Windham Middle School principal

By Lorraine Glowczak

Greg Applestein, a 34-year veteran educator with 11 years of administrator experience, was approved and welcomed by the RSU 14 school board to serve as the new Windham Middle School Principal following the end of the school year in June.

Greg Applestein will lead Windham Middle
School as its new principal. A veteran
educator and school administrator, he joins
RSU 14 after serving for the past three
years as the principal of Bonny Eagle
High School in Standish.
Applestein replaces Drew Patin as the WMS principal, and he officially started his new role at the school on July 1.

RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools Christopher Howell said that Applestein has a wealth of experience in public education and his experiences are closely aligned with the work plan that is already in place for WMS.

“Greg’s references spoke of his strong ability to form positive relationships with all members of the school community and his advocacy and support for his staff,” Howell said.

Howell said that Applestein earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1990, and then taught English and Video Productions at Belfast Area High School for 22 years. Upon completion of his Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Southern Maine in 2012, he became the assistant principal of Ellsworth High School for three years.

He relocated to Scarborough High School as an Assistant Principal in 2015 and then accepted a position as Principal at Bonny Eagle High School, where he has worked for the past three years.

According to Applestein, he is looking forward to his new journey with RSU 14 and his role as a middle school principal for the school district.

“I’m excited to work with younger students who are in the midst of big changes and are beginning to discover who they are,” he said. “It’s a great time to be a part of their lives and to help them navigate the world.”

The new WMS principal said he promotes the student-centered approach to education which embraces the students where they are in life.

“Each student has unique backgrounds, strengths, challenges, interests, and aspirations,” he said. “They each have the potential that will unfold at their own pace and in their own way. It’s the job of the educator to recognize, unleash and support that individual student, in their growth and success.”

He said he believes that an educator is there to encourage each student to test the waters by learning new content and empower them to take more ownership of their learning so they can be successful, now and in the future.

At WMS, Applestein will continue project-based learning, which has been the WMS educational approach in recent years. This educational method promotes students’ ownership of their learning as they design, develop, and construct hands-on solutions to real-life situations.

In addition to his focus on student success, Applestein is also very supportive of the school’s staff.

“I want to empower our educators to be the best they can be, not to take themselves too seriously, and to take ownership of their success,” he said. “I’ve always encouraged teachers to keep their passions for students’ achievements and their role in education alive. To teach is to learn, so a commitment to professional development is imperative. Also, involvement in their school community through committee work, etc. is a great ingredient to a successful school culture.”

The new WMS Principal said that he expects the same of himself and to keep himself on track, Applestein reflects upon his experience after each day.

“Often, on the ride home from work, I will ask myself two questions,” he said. “‘What was my new learning today’ and ‘What can I pull from that learning that can make me a better principal tomorrow?’”

Applestein lives in Scarborough with his wife Michelle. The couple has two grown children, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren and when he is not at school, the new WMS principal can be found enjoying live music, reading, drumming, bass fishing, and spending time with his family. <

Historical Society gazebo blooms with flowers from a new garden

By Masha Yurkevich

Famous American botanist Luther Burbank got it right when he said that “flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” To that end, a recent Windham High School graduate spearheaded an effort to bring blooming flowers to the grounds of the Windham Historical Society in Windham Center and on Aug. 7, a flower garden was added to the Windham Historical Society gazebo.

Students and volunteers from Windham High School and the 
community planted a flower garden around the Windham
Historical Society gazebo in Windham Center on Aug. 7.
The event was led and organized by 2023 WHS graduate Greta Paulding, who has been working for the Town of Windham for over a year now as a marketing intern and has collaborated on a variety of projects as a graphic designer. She creates logos, posters, and art pieces to make town projects more beautiful and accessible to the public.

“My boss, Tom Bartell, was the one who suggested that we should have a nice place for town hall weddings,” said Pauling. “Linda Morrell, our town clerk, also wanted a flower garden and suggested that I speak to the historical society about using their gazebo.”

Pauling said that the historical society was excited and supportive from the beginning. Their encouragement went a long way toward making this project a reality.

“None of this would have been possible without our Windham community,” she said. “I put out the call on social media for donations of flowers, tools, and labor and received everything we needed. Friends, family, and neighbors came from near and far to help out.”

Because of their work, the project was completed within a few hours.

At 10 a.m. that morning, the area around the gazebo was just grass. By 1 p.m. the same day, it was a beautiful flower garden. Most of the volunteers creating the flower garden were of high school age and their energy and sense of humor kept their spirits up when they encountered obstacles.

“If you had told me a month ago that I would be organizing and leading this project, I wouldn’t have believed you. I am not a gardener. I have never been good with plants. Fortunately, I received a lot of help and guidance from experienced gardeners,” said Paulding. “I want to particularly thank Abbie McGilvery and Morgan Riley for staying all day to dig, plant, and teach myself and the other volunteers how to create a garden that will last. Their help was a vital part of completing this project and making sure it will continue to beautify our community for many years.”

The historical society gazebo is the perfect location for a wedding garden. Not only is it next door to the Windham Town Hall, it is also beautiful, quiet, and surrounded by local history. Over the past few years, the society has moved several historic buildings from around Windham to the village green, and they are working tirelessly to restore them.

“Strolling around the green feels like being transported back in time,” said Paulding. “Not enough people know about the work the historical society is doing or have seen the village green. I hope that the wedding garden will provide the society with an opportunity to share their passion for local stories and become an important part of the stories of those who get married there.”

Paulding said she hopes that as more people come to visit the historical society, they will be able to appreciate the beauty of the garden and of the entire village green. This garden displays the strength and generosity of our community and its readiness to serve others. It is a symbol of unity.

“Planting flowers is a small way to make a big impact. I hope that this garden inspires other projects around town. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s that people will gladly come together to make our town more beautiful,” said Paulding. “If you’ve always had an idea to make this town better, talk to people. Do something about it. What seems like a pipe dream today might become reality tomorrow.” <

Friday, August 11, 2023

RTT rider’s determination to overcome MS leads to 2023 Adult Equestrian of the Year award

By Kelly Johnson
Special to The Windham Eagle

At Riding To The Top’s 14th annual Triple B celebration last fall, Debbie Hutchinson of Raymond shared her emotional story of navigating life with Multiple Sclerosis and how riding horses at the Windham facility has improved her physical heath and that her relationship with a horse there has boosted her emotional well-being. Hutchinson’s efforts to overcome MS at RTT have led to her being honored by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International as its 2023 Adult Equestrian of the Year.

Riding To The Top rider Debbie Hutchinson
shows her equine partner Paxton her award
as 2023 Adult Equestrian of the Year by the
Professional Association of Therapeutic
Horsemanship International.
Hutchinson has been dealing with MS for 30 years and has been a client of RTT for the past three years. She’s experienced struggles with balance and spasticity which affect her ability to walk, but something magical began to happen to her when she was partnered with an RTT mare named Paxton.

“When I’m riding Paxton, I don’t have MS,” she said.

According to Hutchinson, working with Paxton at RTT has not only helped her to deal with her MS more effectively and has also given her a new support network to deal with MS through the friendships that she’s forged with the staff and volunteers at RTT.

Multiple Sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease producing an abnormal response of the body’s immune system which attacks the central nervous system by mistake. The immune system attack damages the body’s myelin, the substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers and the cells that make it. Without myelin to protect nerve fibers, they are also damaged. This can lead to a range of unpredictable symptoms such as tingling, numbness, pain, fatigue, memory problems and paralysis.

Riding To The Top (RTT), a Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham, was founded in 1993 and its mission is to enhance health and wellness through equine assisted services. More than 250 clients each year are impacted and assisted by a team of certified instructors, a herd of 17 horses and nearly 100 volunteers, all specially trained to assist with therapeutic riding, carriage driving and Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy using equine movement. It is Maine’s only facility that is accredited by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (Path Intl.).

The RTT facility is a community-based nonprofit and receives no federal or state funding while providing scholarships to more than 60 percent of clients who avail themselves of equestrian services offered there.

Hutchinson’s efforts to not let MS control her life drew notice and admiration from everyone she has worked with at RTT.

“From her first entry to our center, Debbie's grit and determination were as obvious as her wide smile, said Kate Jeton, RTT program director. “She has formed an amazing bond with her horse and without assistance is able to walk and trot, modulating rhythm and pace and creating bend in her horse’s body, in spite of not being able to effectively use her right leg. Her feel for her horse is obvious and her elation is infectious."

The riding team that works directly with Hutchinson said she’s truly inspirational and deserving of the 2023 Equestrian of the Year honor.

"I’ve had the pleasure of working with Debbie for several years. She performs her pre-ride warm up with tenacity, enthusiasm, and determination to assure a successful lesson,” said Susan Layton, RTT team member. “She deals with the stress of her condition daily, but when she is sitting high on her horse, her focus is on establishing a close connection with her horse, achieving horsemanship skills, and the pure joy of riding. Her constant smile says it all."

Her achievements riding Paxton also gained the attention of Path Intl., which leads the national advancement of professional equine-assisted services by supporting members and stakeholders through rigorously developed standards, credentialing and education.

“As an international voice in the equine-assisted services (EAS) industry, PATH Intl. has a responsibility to recognize individuals and equines that symbolize our celebration of ability, optimism, diversity, and a shared love of equines,” said Alyson Thrasher, PATH’s Membership and Education Representative. “Exceptional equestrians who join in the excitement offered by EAS are a testament to the power of the horse to change lives. Debbie Hutchinson is an outstanding representative of the PATH Intl. adult equestrian community.”

To learn more about Riding To The Top’s client services, volunteering, or making a gift to RTT, visit or call 207-892-2813. <

State approves funding to complete final segment of Rail Trail project

By Kaysa Jalbert

The final pieces of the puzzle are coming together in the creation of a recreational rail trail from Portland to Fryeburg including a five-mile section passing through Windham, Gorham and Standish that has been underway for the past year.

A completed five-mile section of the Mountain Division 
Trail in Windham is the most used trail west of Portland 
because it is accessible to everyone and features a gentle
grade, wide trail width and is paved. Maine has now 
approved funding to extend the trail to run all the way from
Portland to Fryeburg along old railroad tracks and work
on a new five-mile segment through Windham is
expected to start soon. COURTESY PHOTO  
According to Doug Smith of Windham, vice president of the Mountain Trail Alliance, once completed this section of rail trail will run from Route 202 in Windham to Westbrook and is part of several Active Transportation projects and legislation sponsored for rail trails in other parts of the state. In July, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill authorizing the Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner to construct a multi-use “Trail Until Rail” from Standish to Fryeburg.

Smith said that this is the first of many such pieces of legislation for rail trails forthcoming in the next Legislative session and beyond.

“I am a long-time resident of Windham who bikes and walks the Mountain Division Rail Trail several times a week,” he said. “I joined the Mountain Trail Alliance organization to advocate for building out the rail trail from Portland to Fryeburg. “

Leading up to the drafting of the bill was an extensive, seven-month review of potential rail and non-rail uses for the Mountain Division rail corridor from Standish to Fryeburg. The 12-member Mountain Division Rail Use Advisory Council (RUAC) voted 11 to 1 to recommend conversion of 31 miles of the existing railroad track to an interim paved bicycle and pedestrian trail some 10-feet wide. The committee further recommended snowmobiles remain an allowable use, under annual agreement with Maine DOT, within the corridor.

Advocates for the new rail trail say that it is the least expensive method to expand recreational opportunities in Maine and will provide the most direct and lasting economic and health benefits for residents along the rail corridor.

Smith said that The Mountain Division Trail will spur economic growth and connect Maine communities with a safe, car-free, multi-use trail. The previously completed Eastern Trail, is arguably Maine’s most popular rail trail, and has spurred millions of dollars of economic impact, according to recent studies.

The rail trail will attract tourists, bolster local businesses, and provide a boost to the overall economy. The project will also create job opportunities, stimulate construction-related industries, and drive local investment, further strengthening the region's prosperity.

The passage of the bill and approval by the governor creates a pivotal moment and opportunity for the residents and towns along the western section of the Mountain Division Rail Corridor, said Paul Schumacher, the President of Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission.

“The confluence of this opportunity with availability of grants and other funds brings the reality of accelerated economic development in the form of new businesses, real estate development, health benefits, and tourism within our reach,” Schumacher said.

Once work on the section running to Fryeburg is finished, this Mountain Division Trail section in western Maine will be a continuous 40-mile, paved trail, running from Route 202 in South Windham to Fryeburg. Over time it will connect with trails from Portland to North Conway, New Hampshire.

“This is the culmination of 30 years of work by many individuals, organizations, municipalities, and legislators in our quest to make the Mountain Division Trail a reality,” said Dave Kinsman, President of the Mountain Division Alliance.

The completed five-mile local section, created just over 15 years ago, runs about halfway through Gorham and halfway through Windham. This is the most used trail west of Portland because it is accessible to all, with a gentle grade, wide trail width and paved. This path allows walkers, runners, bicyclists, wheelchairs, and strollers.

“This was the original vision of the Mountain Division Alliance when it was founded in 1994,” says Kinsman, “The Mountain Division Trail will be the best use of a much-underutilized public asset that has sat dormant for 40 years. It will bring joy and economic benefits to the towns of Western Maine.”

The next five miles east from Route 202 in Windham to East Bridge Street in Westbrook is in the planning phase. Funding provided by the Maine Department of Transportation, the Town of Windham, and the City of Westbrook has provided a year-long planning and design study. The study estimates the cost to build the trail with an initial trail design. Once built, the trail with be 10 miles long, wide, flat, and accessible to thousands of people within walking distance of the trail.

“This will be a major project for the state of Maine, Windham, and Westbrook to invest in - and will involve federal active transportation funds. The design and engineering will need to be completed in the next year, and then the fundraising and building will take several years,” said Rachelle Curran Apse, Executive Director of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. “We plan for the trail to be complete in the next five to seven years.”

The Mountain Division Alliance is a Maine based non-profit organization formed in 1993. Its mission is to work with the nine communities along the Mountain Division Rail corridor, Maine Department of Transportation, and other organizations and stakeholders to create a safe, welcoming, contiguous trail to provide for active transportation and recreation opportunities from Fryeburg to Portland. Its Board is comprised of representatives from each of communities that the Mountain Division Rail corridor passes through. <

Friday, August 4, 2023

Windham USOA Pageant contestant a champion for women's equality

By Ed Pierce

Windham attorney Katie Winchenbach is not afraid to fail, but she is afraid not to try. That sense of self confidence and a champion for women’s equality has led her to become an official contestant in the 2024 United States of America Pageant in October in Augusta.

Katie Winchenbach of Windham will
compete as a contestant in the USOA
2024 Maine State Pageant in Augusta
this October. She is an attorney who
works as Program Director for Ms. JD,
a national nonprofit organization
dedicated to the success of aspiring
and early career women lawyers.
Winchenbach will represent the community as Mrs. Windham in the pageant which is designed to encourage women to strive to achieve their hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations, while making them feel confident and beautiful inside and out. The pageant’s motto is to empower women, inspire others, and uplift everyone and it focuses on women empowerment, promoting positive self-image and advocating a platform of community service, which allows contestants to rise by lifting others up.

She is a corporate attorney and nonprofit leader who is a passionate advocate for women’s equality and is dedicated to finding ways to inspire and empower women across the United States. Winchenbach currently serves as the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women lawyers.

As Program Director, she spearheads impactful events and programs that foster diversity in the legal profession and set young women up for successful legal careers. Winchenbach says she’s a firm believer in the power of collaboration and inclusivity and has brought that energy to her community by volunteering as the Vice-President of The Maine Women’s Conference, a local organization that brings together Maine women to connect with, educate, and inspire each other.

Earning a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Maine, a Juris Doctorate law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hofstra University, Winchenbach is eager to share her passion and make an even bigger difference in the lives of women as a USOA contestant.

She said that the pageant will challenge her in new ways that she hasn’t experienced previously.

“I'm looking to be able to show up and support my community as the best version of myself,” Winchenbach said. “Upon starting this journey, I was surprised by how much it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and how many opportunities there were for me to grow as a person. Already, I've been able to become more confident in the way I carry myself and in the way I speak publicly. I work as a corporate attorney and a nonprofit program director, so these are skills that are going to help me immensely even once the pageant is over.”

Along with her husband Jared, she moved to Windham about two years ago and was born in Maine and grew up in the small town of Milford, near the University of Maine Orono.

This will be her first time as a pageant contestant.

“I have never done a pageant before,” Winchenbach said. “When the USOA Pageant Director Christie Hines reached out to me to see if I would be interested in competing, I really thought she had the wrong woman. Once I learned how much of the pageant was focused on community involvement and championing causes close to your heart, I knew I had to say yes.”

According to Winchenbach, she believes being a new pageant contestant will help her.

“I think being a first-time contestant is both a strength and a challenge,” she said. “I'm lacking the experience that more seasoned contestants will have, but I am also going into it without the pressure or expectation of winning. My goal is to represent Windham the best that I can, and to learn as much as I can about competing in pageants. The other women competing are truly incredible and I know I can learn so much just from being part of this.”

She said empowering women will be the cause she will champion if she wins the state title.

“I believe in empowering and inspiring women to dream bigger and boldly pursue these dreams. As the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit dedicated to the success of aspiring and early-career female attorneys, I am able to impact over 800 women per year,” Winchenbach said. “More locally, I am partnering with the Compassionate Leadership Project to create a one-day conference for Maine’s emerging female leaders. The conference will provide attendees with access to prominent female leaders from Maine, practical training on key leadership skills, and the opportunity to build their networks. The conference will be live streamed, to provide this critical resource to women from all over the State of Maine, and eventually, across the United States.”

Grateful to have the support of her family, friends, and community on her quest for the crown, Winchenbach said when she’s not working or preparing for the pageant, she loves to stay busy, so she doesn't have a lot of downtime.

“When I do get down time, I love being out on the water on my paddleboard,” she said. “My husband got me an inflatable one a couple of years ago and I love it. I try to get out on the Presumpscot River on the weekends, do paddle board yoga in Casco Bay, and every once and a while bring my rescue pup out for a ride. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my pageant journey. My husband, Jared, was a big factor in my learning more about the pageant and even being open to talking to Christie about it. He clearly saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. My dad has also been a huge support system for me.”

Another reason that Winchenbach chose to compete in the United States of America Pageant is to honor the memory of her mother.

“My mom competed in a Mrs. pageant when she and my dad were just married,” she said. “She passed away from cancer last November, so this is a really nice way for my family to be able to come together again. They cheered her on over 30 years ago and now they get to cheer me on.”

The USOA Pageant for Maine will be held Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 at The Senator Inn & Spa Augusta and the Augusta Civic Center. <

Windham performer reflects on successful music career

By R.D. Frum

Con Fullam of Windham has been described as “Maine's musical maestro” because he combines lyrical genius and melodic magic to captivate your ears and win your heart. Fullam doesn't simply sing, he also orchestrates a symphony of passionate tales.

Musician Con Fullam of Windham has
performed with many bands and artists
such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, 
Aztec Two-Step, Razzy Baily, Gram
Parsons and Emmylou Harris. He is
also known as the composer of 'The
Maine Christmas Song.'
Fullam’s talent has taken him to stages around America and performances with legendary musicians and bands, but it all started where he grew up in Sydney, Maine on a gentleman’s farm.

“It was lovely and lonely,” Fullam said. “My closest peer was about six miles away, so I spent a lot of time by myself, and that’s where imagination comes in. My father passed away when I was 5 and so I inherited his ukelele, and that’s how I began to play. It was a huge help to me to get through some very sad times.”

Fullam’s entire family played music, further fostering his interest.

“My father played ukelele, my mother was a pianist and a voice teacher, my brother played the banjo and guitar, and my sister played the guitar, so we were a musical family,” he said. “Back in those days, I went to a Catholic school. I was the only kid without a father. It was a defining point at some level, but I found that I had something they didn’t have. I was the guy that played the ukelele, and then a four-string guitar, and it sort of set me up as somebody who could stand his own ground.”

Fullam would play at church and civic events, and he and his brother played together as a duo on a radio show that his brother had in Waterville. When Fullam was 14, he started a band, and since then he hasn’t looked back. Music has transformed Fullam’s life because it is his life.

“Sometimes lyrics come to me, sometimes melodies come to me. There's no real set process that I go through,” Fullam said. “Writing a good lyric to me is hard and writing a good melody is hard because as far as I know there hasn’t been an original song written in many millennia. This is a 12-tone scale and there are 50 million songs written. It's then a matter of finding something that is as best you can do and unique to yourself.”

He said that he’s written a lot of songs and on any given day one particular song sticks in his head.

“But if I finish them then I generally think that they're pretty good,” Fullam said. “At some point you get to a certain level where you can sort of tell when something's going to actually breathe or not. So, if they breathe and I finish them, then generally speaking they go into the repertoire.”

Fullam has performed with many other artists like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Aztec Two-Step, Asleep at the Wheel, Richie Havens, Tim Harden, Razzy Bailey, and more. And he’s co-written a song with Rex from Aztec Two-Step, who is also from Maine.

One of Fullam’s favorite places to perform is Max’s Kansas City in New York. There were three up-and-coming clubs during the time Fullam played in New York: The Bitter End, Gaslight, and Max’s Kansas City.

“I got to play all of them,” Fullam said. “I just had some great shows at Max's Kansas City. There was a great audience, always. It was a small, 200-seat room, very intimate. I played there with Richie Havens, Gram Parsons, and Emmylou Harris. It was always a special moment.”

According to Fullam, if a musician goes into writing a song thinking that they want to write a hit, they should probably find another profession.

“A hit song is a rare and unusual accomplishment and I warn people that in this business if somebody comes to you and says that they know what a hit is, you want to run away because they don’t, no one does,” he said. “Why something is a hit and why something isn’t, nobody knows.”

Fullam said if you don't play for yourself and about yourself, then you're never really going to capture an audience.

“The audience needs to see that you're genuine, that the songs you play or you're playing are coming from your heart,” he said. “And if that happens then as a rule the audience will buy in, and you know there's nothing better than to have people come up afterwards and say this song touched them. I wrote ‘The Maine Christmas Song,’ which is obviously special to Maine, and 35 years later, I still get people coming out and saying how much it meant to them and that's a very wonderful feeling. I never would have written it without Bob Elliot, who was the muse for the song.”

He also wrote a picture book inspired by “The Maine Christmas Song.”

“The book came absolutely out of the blue. Bob passed away several years ago, and it was two years ago that I got a call from this young publisher who grew up with the song, and she and her mom were talking about it and her mom suggested she thought it would make a great children’s book,” Fullam said. “I would’ve never thought about that in a million years.”

During his career, Fullam has served as the executive producer of the PBS children’s series, “Ribert and Robert’s Wonderworld,” for which he co-wrote, and co-produced the music. His co-creation “The Wompkees” has also aired on PBS and is now distributed in more than 40 countries around the world.

In 2005, Fullam founded Pihcintu, a multi-national girls’ chorus.

“The obvious and most immediate challenge is you lose your voice, literally,” he said. “They are coming in speaking Arabic or Portuguese or French or whatever it may be. That's obviously immensely difficult, so I formed the chorus to give girls their voices back.”

Fullam has a new 2-set CD called “A Song, Paintings, and Portraits” coming out with 26 songs.

“All of the songs on there made it because they’re important to me,” he said. “Some of the songs go back 40 years and some of them are as recent as months ago just before I finished compiling the CD.”

That CD will be available at <