What do State Representatives, a President of the local Chamber of Commerce, a Town Councilor and a Recreation Director have in common? They all volunteered and were active in community issues they deemed important. Additionally, it was those very experiences that propelled them forward to the successful life they are currently living.
Zack Conley was just 22 years old when he was elected as the President by the board members of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “It was just a little over a year ago when I became a Financial Representative at Modern Woodman and I was advised to become a part of the chamber as a way to succeed in my business. I joined the chamber, met many successful movers and shakers and not only has my business taken off, but so has my networking with others and meeting so many amazing people who have contributed to my success,” explained Conley in an interview in October, 2018. Now here he is, two years later and still going strong. His business continues to blossom, and he remains the youngest chamber President in Maine today.
It is a well-known fact that active participation in local issues and volunteering your time enriches the life of others, while at the same time deepens your own experiences. Volunteering counteracts anxiety and depression, creates a certain level of happiness, provides a sense of purpose, and builds self-confidence. Also, getting involved helps one succeed personally with their goals and careers. In fact, there are a multitude of examples right here among us in the Raymond and Windham communities. We reached out to some other local “movers and shakers” to share their stories with us including Raymond’s new Parks and Recreation Director, Joseph (Joe) Crocker.
Crocker began his career quite by accident. Fifteen years ago, he volunteered as a basketball travel coach for the Saco Recreation Department. “I enjoyed that experience so much that I came back and worked as a Camp Counselor during the summer months while in college working on my bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science,” he said. “The experience opened the door for me and it seemed things snowballed from there.”
Crocker eventually obtained his master’s degree in business administration for Parks and Recreation Management. He continued to volunteer in various compacities while working in a variety of positions in his chosen field. His latest volunteering efforts included being a part of assisting a newly established committee for the Windham Parks and Recreation’s work on a possible new recreation building. “Public service and being involved can lead to so many opportunities…. opportunities you would never imagine. Fifteen years ago, I never once thought I would be where I am today.”
Public service is what prompted Jarrod Maxfield to become involved in the community and his story is an example of the unexpected aspects of volunteering. Currently a Chair and Councilman for the Town of Windham, Maxfield began his career in politics as a result of streetlights. “In 2012 or 2013, there was a concern about the number of streetlights that would be turned off due to cost and energy efficiency,” Maxfield began. “This was a controversial issue and I had my own concerns about it, so I decided to join and volunteer with the town appointed Energy Conservation Committee. I wanted to be involved in something that I believed was important.”
It was never Maxfield’s intention to enter politics at that point; he simply wanted to advocate and support an effort he believed crucial. Much like Crocker’s experience, things just snowballed from there, and he decided to run for an empty seat on the Town Council and won.
“I never once thought that when I sat on the Energy Conservation Committee recommending to the Council to install cost effective and energy efficient LED streetlights that I would be the one who would actually vote and approve that very recommendation as a newly elected member of the Council.”
The Town of Windham’s streets are now lined with LED streetlamps, saving the town money and making a positive impact on the environmental footprint.
If one is actively pursuing politics as a career option, read on about State Representatives Jess Fay, Patrick Corey and Mark Bryant sharing their stories on how civic participation and volunteerism played a role in their current positions.
Rep. Bryant of Windham, who came from a civically active and politically diverse family of three sisters, six brothers and two parents, saw firsthand how active participation in community efforts make a difference in the lives of others and self. “My father was the Head Selectmen of the Town of Canton and was the town’s Fire Chief while my mother was active in religious efforts, teaching at a Christian school in Livermore,” he said. While a junior in high school, Bryant attended the American Legion’s Auxiliary Boys State and got to see how government works.
“Having the experiences I had while growing up, I learned you have to make do with what you have and that there are needs to be addressed and getting involved is one way to help others and make a difference,” he began. “Also, since my immediate family consists of a mixture of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, I learned that diverse opinions can be expressed with love and support.”
Although Bryant has been, and continues to be involved in many civic duties, it was his role as a committee member of the group who worked to combine the Windham Fire and EMS departments into one unit, which was controversial at the time, that propelled him into running for the role of state representative. “The experiences I had on this committee gave me the perspective as to ‘why’ I wanted to run for office.”
The perspective of ‘why’ to run for office also played a role for Windham’s Rep. Patrick Corey. “My initial interest in town growth and the importance of open spaces inspired me to become involved in these issues,” Corey stated. “I eventually was elected as a board member of the Windham Land Trust [eventually merged with the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust] so I could advocate for matters concerning proper development. But the thought of taking advocacy and gaining a voice on the state level didn’t occur to me until I saw the challenges faced in my role as a board member of the Falmouth Rod and Gun Club.”
Corey explained some municipalities were creating ordinances making it impossible for rod and gun clubs across the state to operate, taking away a long-standing Maine tradition. “This experience created in me a passion to advocate for issues that are important to Maine and its way of life,” he said. “Civic participation also gave me the skill and knowledge to successfully advocate for legislation on these and many issues that have been passed and are successful.”
Rep. Jess Fay of Raymond came to her role in politics indirectly as a result of her active participation in the community. “To volunteer was to step outside my comfort zone,” she said. Fay volunteered as a board member at the Raymond Village Library. “There were times that we as board members faced a certain amount of difficulties, but what I didn’t know at the time – it was these very challenges that gave me the confidence to take my voice and advocacy to the next level. I learned that you have to step outside of your comfort zone to let your voice be heard and make a difference in issues that matter for many individuals.”
Although Fay has succeeded as a two-term state representative, which requires more personal discomfort than average, she admits that she still tries new things that she has never done before and to discover what she is good at doing...or not. “I recently volunteered to help build a new trail at the Raymond Community Forest,” she said. “I had never built anything like that before but found that people were very helpful in showing me what to do.”
Knowing your skills, accomplishments, interests and values is the foundation of career success and active participation in local matters is a good way to learn more about yourself and your potential to grow and develop – and find yourself in a career you love.
And, as Fay points out, volunteering can also help you learn what does not work for you. “I have discovered that I’m not the best trail builder in the world.”
No matter what your career aspirations or goals are, it has been proven over and over again that volunteering and civic participation makes a difference in everyone’s life – including your own. If it is happiness or self-improvement you are longing for or if it is your goal to be the next U.S. President – a step into volunteerism is a humble but important one to take for personal success. It’s a win-win situation. Consider volunteering for an organization or issue that is important for you today. Who knows what adventure you will have as a result.