Her Island History: 100 Years of Tenacious Island Women

Kathy Miller shares her professional history in Maine’s nonprofits, leading up to Mount Desert 365. She also shares a photograph of her daughters in the snow outside of their house in Somesville, the former parsonage’s house at the Union Meeting House.

Oral History Transcription:

Kathy Miller
Somesville, ME
Interviewed by Rick Wheeler
July 14th, 2020

RW: This is Rick Wheeler, and I am here with Kathy Miller, who is the first Executive Director of Mount Desert 365. Kathy, before we get into your contributions to Maine and specifically MDI’s communities, can you tell us about your early life, and how and why you first came to the MDI region?

KM: I grew up in Connecticut, in a town called Hammond, which is just north of New Haven. Both of my parents grew up there. I was one of seven children, and went off to college at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where I had lots of cousins. My parents’ siblings all moved down to the Washington area, and we would visit often. During my high school years, I had a friend whose parents had a summer camp in Maine, and that was my first trip to Maine, for a fun weekend. And in college, I had a friend who came from Maine — he lived in Auburn, but his parents were interested in looking at property on Swans’ Island.
One time, in my college years, I had a very early morning trip from Auburn, right past my current house, to get the ferry in Bass Harbor to get over to Swans’ Island. Who knew that I would one day live in one of the houses en route? My husband, Jerry Miller, grew up as a summer kid here from his teenage years on. Some time after I met him, I came up here to visit him. It was after we were married that we came up here in the spring, in March, of 1985. We intended just to spend that summer—we had other life plans, we were going to be living in Europe, starting a high school program over there. We came up thinking we were just going to be here for the summer, and decided to stay.
We lived for a short period in Bar Harbor in some cottage that turned over in the summertime to busier use. We spent a couple of years in a log cabin in Southwest Harbor, over on Long Pond Road. We spent a summer over in Bernard, on Columbia Avenue. After our second child was born, we moved away to DC for a couple of years. When the third child was born, we moved to Massachusetts for a little while. And then we moved back to Maine, because this was where our boat was, this was where we came for all of our vacations, and so this was where our heart was. We moved back here in 1992, when our children were two, four, and six years old.

RW: Tell us about your work on the island with the YMCA and the Maine Seacoast Mission.

KM: A lot of my employment has come through serendipitous ways. When my husband and I first came up, I had come from working for a nonprofit organization. I used to work for Common Cause, in Washington DC. We were only going to be here for a short while, I thought, and I had my resume, and I went into Ellsworth to get it photocopied so I could look for some employment. I went into Downeast Graphics and Printing. And they were actually hiring somebody. I had some previous experience working in print shops, and doing graphic design work, etcetera, since high school days. At Common Cause, we had a small in-house print shop; I was doing administrative work, and so I managed that. I was familiar with that world. And so I started working for them. COA was a big client; we did a lot of work for them, and I met some great people, like Steve Katona and Susan Lerner, when he was being inducted as the second president. We did all of the invitations for all those kinds of events. Another one of our clients was the YMCA, who were doing their big capital campaign. We were working on all of the materials, so I got to know some of the people involved in that process. And then they were looking for somebody to work in their development office, to help finish up that capital campaign, and I thought, y’know, this would be a good move for me.
Since we moved back here, I was working full-time in Ellsworth, and my husband was the stay-at-home dad, you know, “Mr. Mom,” in the early days of that whole thing. Many people thought my husband was a single parent. They didn’t know me, because I went off at seven o’clock every morning to work in Ellsworth, and came home after the fact. Other than attending school concerts and events and parent-teacher conferences, I was not as present in the island as I wanted to be. I wanted to work back on the island, so working for the Y was a great opportunity for that. I did, then, get more engaged in my childrens’ lives at school. I did a lot more volunteering, and got more engaged in the PTO there.
I came in at a good time at the Y. They were finishing up the capital campaign, still in the old building. I was part of the new construction process—we were there for the first shovel in the ground, and then opening it up, and the recognition of everyone in the community who had contributed to it. If you’ve been in the Y, you know, when you first walk into the lobby, there’s this whole wall of fish, and peoples’ names on them. Keeping track of all of that, and helping to design that wall, and get it installed, was a big deal at the time.

RW: You also worked at Maine Coast Pre-trial Services, and the Hancock County Drug Court, and the Maine Lighthouse Corps?

KM: Yes, that was another serendipitous thing. While I was working at the Y, I would take my children down to church in St. Peter’s in Southwest Harbor. I grew up in a very Catholic family, went to Catholic schools my whole life, and wanted my children to have some introduction into the world of religion,, so that when they were grown-up, they could make their own choices. I thought it’d be important to get some grounding. At St. Peter’s, we found a lovely community. One of the people there was Doug Chapman, who is now deceased, but was a long-time attorney at the firm in Bar Harbor: Fenton, Chapman, Smith, and Kane. He would see me regularly with my three little kids, and one day, after church, he asked to talk to me and asked when I was going to get back in the workforce. I said, I don’t understand, I’ve been working, I’ve always been working! He asked me to come down to his office one day. At the time, he was a volunteer with Catholic Charities. He was working with them on development issues, trying to get them funding, and he was a very religious, very spiritual person himself. He had an idea in-mind, which he wanted Catholic Charities to get involved in, and he brought me in as a volunteer to help organize some of those things. It evolved into a program around substance abuse work. I helped out as a volunteer, and we were creating a new development and communications office in Falmouth. I helped as a volunteer on their committee, and then they hired someone to be in that role, who was there about a year and a half. When that person left, they hired somebody new who was a bad fit. That person left in very short order.
At that point, I had left the Y, I was working from home doing sort of consulting work––I had a few different clients, mostly around PR kinds of things. I came to an agreement with CC that I would work for them for a year as their Development Director. So it was a Communications and Development office, and I would work two days down in Portland, and three days from my home office. And you know, when you still have little kids –– elementary school-aged children, anyway –– so I’d drive down Monday morning, stay overnight, work all day Tuesday, and then come home Tuesday, and work from home the rest of the week. What evolved through Doug’s work was looking at mental health issues, children who were exposed to traumatic situations. We worked with some nationally-renowned psychologists like Carl Bell, who’s from Chicago. We developed a core group of people in Maine who understood what was going on with children who’d been brought up in traumatic environments and how it changes their brain chemistry, hard-wires that into them, and results in lifelong problems as adults. When you look at the whole criminal justice system, and how many people might be incarcerated, or how many people have substance abuse issues, there’s a lot of research that went back into adverse childhood events.
As an outcome, we did a symposium in Bar Harbor, and worked with the Margaret Chase Smith Center to do an epidemiological study of the impact on children in Maine. We did a symposium bringing in law enforcement, childcare workers, psychiatrists, mental health people, and the impact of substance abuse was just really becoming known. This was in about 2001, ‘02, and ‘03 that we were doing this work. Law enforcement said, “Hey, if you want to get into adverse childhood events and the cause of that, there’s a whole lot of domestic violence and a whole lot of substance abuse.” Every time there’s an event where a child is present, substance abuse is at the heart of that.
Doug Chapman decided, “All right, we need to do something about this!” He pulled in some medical community and religious people, and I had at that time been helping out Maine Seacoast Mission. I had a friend who was doing development work there, and she wanted some help with grant writing. So I started consulting work with them, helping out. I suggested that we bring in Gary DeLong, from the Maine SeaCoast Mission, who was the director or the president at the time, and they were doing so much work downeast. They were just starting the Edge Program there to work with children. We were looking at the impact of substance abuse in Hancock and Washington County, this geographic area, so we got those three people together, and Charlie Alexander (who was a physician in Ellsworth). The joke of this was, we had a doctor, a lawyer, and a priest walk into a bar –– but it was Jordan’s Restaurant where these three met, and hatched the idea of creating Maine Lighthouse [Corps]. And the theory behind this was to create a long-term residential program, called a therapeutic community, for people with serious, chronic, persistent substance abuse disorder. We were working with a physician in the state, who was the guru of substance abuse programs: Dr. Stanley Evans, who started a program at the hospital in Bangor, Eastern Maine, called the Kelley Program. And everybody knew about that. It was really an alcohol program.
So, that’s how I got started, and that’s how Maine Lighthouse got started, and I worked in that field for a long time, trying to get that program together. It morphed into looking at statewide and regional issues, and there was never enough funding to get this program started, but I think we did a lot of good work in the meantime. We put on a couple of statewide programs looking at the effect of substance abuse on women, and the connection to the criminal justice system, and we had big events that had not been done before, looking at these kinds of issues. We had great state leaders coming together and looking at this. I got engaged with everything that was going on in Augusta, and the legislative approach to this, and at the same time, the state created a special commission to look at incarceration issues, because the jails were overcrowded, the state prison was overcrowding, and so much of it revolved around substance abuse issues. I got to meet so many wonderful people: Janet Mills was part of that committee! And from that time, I thought, “She is such a dynamo!” I would see her in these meetings, with — she’s the first one there, she’s got notebooks of material, she knows her stuff, she’s so direct and pointed and on top of every point, and every issue, and did it with a sense of humor. I had such admiration for her, from that point on.
Another one was Steve Rowe. I thought, he’s so hard-working, so smart, so genuine and caring, and I had such admiration for him. I am thrilled that he’s now the head of the Maine Community Foundation. It’s like, these are such fabulous people. I got to interact with those folks, then. John Baldacci was the governor at the time, and he was concerned about all of this, but we never made the headway to get this program going, sadly. But we did bring in people like Mike Dukakis, and his wife Kitty Dukakis, because they were doing great work in Massachusetts. They created a blueprint for what states should do. He was retired governor of Massachusetts, and was the head of a commission that Massachusetts created to make a blueprint for what states should do. When I heard about that, I connected with other state agencies to work on their model, and try to incorporate that here. So, we brought Governor Dukakis and Kitty Dukakis, who was well-known for her advocacy work in mental health and substance abuse treatment. Sitting outside John Baldacci’s office, waiting around to get into our meeting, we had an entourage of people, and I’m sitting with Kitty Dukakis, who goes, “If you ever need anything, here’s my phone number.” How often does that happen? So that really enriched my life tremendously, to be working on important issues, statewide and universal issues, and it’s about people: the pain of the experience, and how it’s multigenerational, it just gets passed on, and gets into the whole socioeconomic divide. People who have means can go get cleaned up, but people who don’t, languish and start living under a bridge. It often spirals down from that.
So, it was through that, at the end of my time with Maine Lighthouse –– because we could never get the funding going –– it just kind of petered away, and dissolved, but through them, I met folks with the Maine Pretrial Services, which is a statewide nonprofit that works with different courthouses and jails to work with people, not to be incarcerated, and to use a different means of judging. Does this person need to be incarcerated, or, before their court date comes — innocent until proven guilty — let’s let them be at home with their family, and keep working, and be responsible people. But keep tabs on them to make sure that they show up. And that’s what Maine Pretrial Services does. The drug courts are an offshoot of that, and in the early days, we looked at drug courts for Maine Lighthouse, because it was a great model of holding people accountable, but helping them to move on.

That’s how I got involved in all of that. I left Maine Pre-trial to come here to Mount Desert 365. While I was still working there, I was in a Town Meeting, and I was on the Warrant Committee, and in that meeting, the idea of a “Mount Desert Economic Sustainability Initiative” came up.

RW: Can you give us the timeline as to when you were working at each of these entities, before you came to MD365?

KM: I started working at Downeast Graphics when we came back in ‘92. In ‘95, I went to the YMCA. I left there in 2000, and did some work for Catholic Charities for about a year as a paid person, and then off-and-on for a longer time. From about 2002 to 2003, I was at Maine SeaCoast Mission. And 2003 – 2010 was Maine Lighthouse, and 2010 to 2017 was the Hancock County Drug Court as an employee of Maine Pretrial Services. And from 2017, I started with this: what became Mount Desert 365.
I was a member of the Warrant Committee, which my husband had done for many, many years. Once our children were all gone, I thought, I should go to those meetings! The Warrant Committee is a great way to find out what’s going on in town, here from the get-go, from all the town employees, where we’re spending money, what the issues are, etcetera. I was a member of that group. In one of our winter meetings, this topic of a Mount Desert sustainability initiative started up. Katrina Carter and Durlin Lunt were in the meeting, and she said, “It’s about jobs, and housing.” Working in the Drug Court issue, those are the two primary concerns for anybody who’s in recovery. Where do you live, and is it a safe and stable place for you to live? And where do you work? So much of our identity is connected to our employment: what do you do every day? What’s our sense of responsibility? How do we fulfill our lives, and pay our rent? Jobs and housing, they were just always uppermost in our minds as I worked with clients in substance abuse. But it’s true for any community.

RW: As I recall the impetus for the organization that became Mount Desert 365 was the concern/outcry about cruise ships possibly coming to Northeast Harbor?

KW: That’s what started it. Sometime prior to all of that, in 2016 or so, a small cruise ship, with about 175 people, anchored off Bear Island at the entrance to Northeast Harbor, ferried people into town — who did their shopping. The cruise line wanted to make Northeast harbor a regular port of call. People became concerned, because they had seen how Bar Harbor and the cruise ship industry had taken hold, and grown and grown. There are now two hundred ships visiting from spring to fall, often with passenger lists of three to five thousand people. The days when the cruise ships are in, some businesses do very well, but not everybody. If you’re off the beaten path, you don’t do as well. Some businesses became reliant on that summer tourism, and other people were upset that it clogs the sidewalks — they don’t want to go into town on a day when the ships are in, because it’s just choc-a-bloc full of people. Some people in this community thought: we do not want Northeast Harbor to become another Bar Harbor, and once you open that door, it’s gonna be a problem. There were a series of public hearings with the Marina Committee weighing in. Some merchants said the day that ship was in was their best day ever! We can’t make it if we don’t have people shopping in our businesses. People like F.T. Brown’s Hardware Store has had a hard time, as this community has transformed to a much more seasonal community. It is very hard for year-round businesses to be sustainable. That’s why the sustainability initiative got started – to ensure a sustainable, viable community that will support local businesses on a year-round basis. We don’t think that cruise ships are the answer to your difficulties, but we hear the difficulties. So let’s find some other solutions.

RW: The issue on the cruise ship, I recall, went away when the town voted strongly not to allow cruise ships. So the organization that was set up to block the cruise ship, if you will, was the precursor to MD365? And once the cruise ship went away, it fell back on sustainability?

KW: The issues that made having cruise ships an attractive option are still here. This is a beautiful place to live, and it’s a wonderful place to live. We are at the end of the road. And there are pros and cons to anything like that. When you’re at the end of the road, there’s not a whole lot of pass through traffic. So the streets are safe — you can walk down Main Street, you can walk or ride your bike anywhere, and it’s perfectly safe. There are tons of kids, and adults, riding bikes all over. You can’t do that everywhere, and you can’t do it certainly if Route 3 is passing through your town. That’s both an attraction for living here, and it’s a detraction, because it’s out of the way. I live in Somesville, and it’s just as easy for us — and even easier for those in Pretty Marsh — to go to Bar Harbor or Southwest Harbor, to go to the grocery store and the hardware store or anywhere else. If it’s out of your way, trying to combine your trips to the grocery or hardware store, you go to Bar Harbor. “Well, how’s the big city? Cruise ship’s in! You don’t want to go down there.” So the idea is, we need to have people who are here, either living or working here, or, you have to have an attraction for other people on the island, and beyond, to come here. We looked at a lot of the numbers.

RW: Who are the major players of MD365?

KW: Steven and Mitchell Rales, two brothers, were very concerned about this. But they were working with a number of other people: Jack Katz, who lives in Otter Creek, but also has a business in Florida, and has seen the impact of cruise ships down there. Lila Cole and Kurt Strolhacher were involved in the start of all of this, as well, and Lila was one of our original board members. That was kind of the group that got it started, and from that, we’ve brought on a number of other people to be board members. We have six board members, which include both Rales, Winston Holt, a summer resident in Seal Harbor — those three are summer residents. Nadia Rosenthal, the scientific director at JAX and was a life-long summer person, but since taking a senior position at Jackson Lab, has become a full-time resident with a place on Sutton’s and Seal Harbor. Dan Falt, who everyone knows, an artist an icon, and lifelong summer kid transitioned to being a year-round resident. Rodney Eason, who is a relatively new person to the island, is a horticulturalist who came from Boothbay Center to become the ED for the Land and Garden Preserve here. He lives just outside of Hall Quarry with his partner and has several kids in our school system. He’s the third year-rounder on the board.
When we looked back at some of the issues, we realized that the town encompasses six different communities that straddle from west to east the whole island: Pretty Marsh, Hall Quarry, Somesville, Northeast Harbor, Seal Harbor, and Otter Creek. Northeast Harbor is both the municipal and the commercial center of the Town of Mount Desert with the elementary school here, the major library, the town office, and the police/fire department (although there are fire departments in at least two other communities and several libraries as well). This is where the greatest number of businesses are located, with some exceptions of other village commercial districts in Otter Creek, Seal Harbor, and Somesville. We realized that Northeast Harbor has seen some of the biggest changes –– the Town’s population has stayed fairly stable, but the biggest change has been in the village of Northeast Harbor. It started in the 80s. Prior to that, there had been poor year round residents in the center of town. The year-round population was 900 to 1000 people. The perimeter, particularly along the shore, was more summer homes. And then, there was a domino effect. One of the houses in the center sold from year-round to summer use. And then another. And then another, and then another. It kept transforming into a more seasonal community.
At this point, there are now about 300 to 350 year-round residents, and far more –– twice as many seasonal homes as there are year-round homes in Northeast Harbor. The majority of the business community has also changed. For one hundred years, the balance between essential goods and services, and luxury items––high-end clothing and jewelry––it used to be seventy-five to eighty percent, essential goods and services. There were about four different food markets. There were three or four different gas stations. There was a taxi stand. There were car dealerships, here, in Northeast Harbor! And about twenty to twenty-five percent were luxury goods and items. Now, that has shifted, so that it’s almost exactly the opposite. We have one gas station, one grocery store. It’s true that you can get food elsewhere, at the convenience store, but it’s just not the same as it used to be. Many of these businesses shut down in the winter. They are here, spring to fall, primarily to cater to summer residents and to a lesser degree tourists and cruisers. Those that do remain open have a very hard time doing so. Like the hardware store; like McGrath’s. With any of the restaurants, it’s like, “We’re going to try and stay open but… it’s not working out. Either we can’t find staff, or there’s not enough people.” This past winter was probably the worst –– we didn’t have a single restaurant that was open in Northeast Harbor. Before that, both the Tan Turtle and Fork & Table had been open. For very different reasons, both of them closed down, and nothing was open all winter long. People in the community would say, “Well, once in a while, I want to go out and see other people!” But there’s no place to go in town. So you have to go somewhere else. Our impetus is to bring people to live or work here, because we know that if you work here, you spend eight to ten hours a day here. You might get coffee to start your day, you might run out and get your lunch, and if you’re going to have dinner out, you might as well do it where you work, and have people come to you. The impact of having people working here is almost as good as having people living here. We’re trying to do both of those things, trying to increase the year-round population. Everything we do, we’re trying to make it a year-round community.

RW: Tell us a little bit about what you do, and what’s been working, and what hasn’t.

KM: We have purchased a number of properties, and the intent is –– in the residential areas –– to build houses for year-round households.

RW: Is the funding from private philanthropy?

KM: Yes. It’s all through donations; we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, so donations to us are tax-deductible. We may get some grant funding, but in many instances, our demographics don’t lend themselves to getting a lot of money. We’re like the poor little rich kid––you know? We have too small of a population. Our impact is not going to be as great as it would be in some other community where they’re building an apartment building for forty houses. We’re not necessarily going to do that; what we are going to do is smaller. So we’re looking at Mount Desert, which is also one of the wealthiest communities in Hancock County, and probably in the state. We don’t meet a lot of the need-requirements to attract either state or federal funding. While we could qualify for some grant work, a lot of it is going to be pure philanthropy.
Our approach to home ownership, here, is to create housing that is affordable to year-round people, and that stays affordable. It can’t flip over into seasonal use. We’re entering into this with covenants in place: if we purchase a property, our model will also be a shared-equity model, which is used around the country to help keep things affordable.
We have a plot of land, and working within the town’s ordinances, we can have so many residences on it. The way that we’ll approach it is to retain ownership of the land with a long-term lease to the homeowner, who actually owns the improvements upon the land. Their expenses are lower, because they don’t have to invest in the land as well. Around here, a small parcel of land could be $160,000 to $260,000 for a buildable lot. That’s a huge investment to make, on top of a house! So if we take that out of the equation, somebody’s not buying both of those. So we retain ownership: it’s our investment into that property.

RW: So if Mount Desert 365 owns the land, who owns the house itself?

KM: The homeowner: they own the improvements. The way that our tax assessors look at this is [to separate] the land and the improvements, which could be a house and a garage, or a house and a shed, or a house and a deck. They are assessed separately from each other. We would own the land; they would own the improvements upon it, and have rights and responsibilities upon using the land.

RW: Does Mount Desert 365 have input as to what individuals/businesses can build on the land?

KM: That’s a very good question, because we’ve looked at a number of models. We’ve seen what other entities have done here, or elsewhere, and we’re trying to find the mix of possibilities that will work best for this community. So, when you ask, “What are the challenges?”, this is an expensive place to build anything. The local builders are very busy. It is hard to build something that is affordable to the workforce and to year-round families. We’re trying to create housing that is roughly in the $250,000 to $275,000 range. That doesn’t go very far with today’s building costs. We also know that, as a nonprofit, our funding is going to come from the community, who are going to care what things look like. We don’t want to stifle peoples’ personality or individuality, but we also do care what’s going to be built in the community, and we want it to work, to fit in, with what else is going on in the community.
We work a lot with Island Housing Trust. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what they have created in Somesville, and on Farnham’s Way –– there are nine houses there. They were built using a model of house that won an award in the State for high-energy efficiency. It is a model with some permutations that the homeowner can choose. They want to bump out this window, they want a deck or a porch here, and this color or that color… but it’s a structure that is boilerplate, and then you can add on to make it your own. If you go into the community, it looks a little cookie-cutter-ish, but people who live there love it. They are very energy-efficient houses, and it has evolved into a genuine community, where the kids are out playing together in the woods all of the time. It’s an idyllic setting. The parents get along, the kids get along, and everybody takes care of each other. I believe that in this COVID-situation, where we all choose, “Who’s our tribe?”, they’ve decided – this is our tribe. These are the people with whom we are comfortable taking off our masks.This is a community that is working together; where kids can still have fun, and be with other kids, and not be cooped up in the house all day. So that’s a pretty idyllic situation.
On the other extreme, Day Mountain Properties in Seal Harbor was another effort to create workforce housing for year-round folks. They followed a different model; they sold land at a very affordable rate, well below market rate, and having that equity in the land, homeowners were able to get a construction loan from the bank, and build their own house. There, every house looks different. Somebody has a model house, somebody has a kit house, somebody else built it themselves. It looks — you’d never know, unless you already knew — that this was a community that has covenants on it to keep the houses affordable in the future. That’s the key to everything. You have to have certain guidelines that say, “When you sell this house, there’s going to be a maximum price that you can sell it for,” which is tied to the median family income for the State. That’s how it will work for us, as it has worked for each of these other entities right here on the island.

RW: Fast-forwarding to the future, what would you like to see accomplished by Mount Desert 365 in ten years?

KM: I would like to have a year-round community that has food auctions of every kind –– a restaurant open for every meal, and in-between. Sidewalk cafes in the summer, and cozy places in the winter, and customers always going in and out. I’d like to see more retail shops open for goods at a great range of prices, so that it’s not only for well-heeled people to shop at high-end shops. My first day here, somebody came here and said to me, “There are no men’s clothing stores that I’ve been to yet. I need something like that!” I’d like to see a shop that repairs things, so that we can fit into the whole environmental mode of not throwing away, but preserving, and keeping forever, wearing out and passing on. That we don’t have to travel too far off of the island, or out of this community, to get what we need. That we have enough connectivity in terms of our whole broadband aspect here, that people can work remotely so that whatever kind of work they’re doing, they can do it while they’re living here. At the end of their workday, they can go out sailing, or kayaking, or hiking, or whatever they want to do, but they’ve got a good-paying job here that gives them satisfaction, is productive, et cetera. I would love to have a Makerspace in this community: a center for people to come and explore their hobbies, find their passion, create new things that might evolve into a job, or a product, or something down the road. But it’s also very community-oriented. This is an idea that’s been buzzing around. We did get a Maine Community Foundation grant to do some planning for this, so we’re about to embark upon that. If you’ve ever heard of a Makerspace, you know it’s a center that has tools that can be shared by anybody. It is a great way for different generations of people to learn from each other. Those with skills and experience can help train people who are coming up and want to learn: how do I use a bandsaw? How do I use a laser cutter? They can all express themselves creatively and maybe create a business. It’s all about bringing people together, both a socioeconomic bridge and an intergenerational bridge as well.

RW: Ten years down the road at Mount Desert 365, what do you see it doing today versus in five years to get to those goals?

KM: We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now. We are working with a number of different entities to try and bring those resources here; to try and bring in more people, and to figure out, “How could we do this, and how could we do that, better?” What’s the best model out there, that would apply here? We are looking at other communities that have gone through transformation, and trying to learn from them. Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel; we’re not the first community to try and reinvigorate itself. We are learning from other communities around the country, and working with other entities within our region, to try and bring more people and resources to the community. Having the Seacoast Mission come here is a great example of that. There was an opportunity, where they said, “We’re making a change,” and we’re like, “Great! Come make your change here in Northeast Harbor. Make this your new home.” And it brings ten new people here, on a daily basis. It provides them with what they need, which is to not be burdened by a big building with the need to take care of it, but to put their funding into programming. Working with them on what they do, and expanding what they do –– their telehealth medicine might be great for this community, as well. I think that there are things that they will bring to this community that will enhance all of our lives. Working with some of the other institutions on the island… Jackson Lab, the Bio Lab… we know that Jackson Lab needs housing. They have so many staff who are driving an hour onto the island. Well, we have properties that may fit their needs to find year-round housing, for people who have great jobs, and are doing lifesaving work for the world.

RW: Would it be fair to say that you’d see 365 continuing to purchase parcels of land to make available for affordable housing?

KM: When those opportunities come up. Right now, we have plenty of land, and we need to be developing them. So, we have started on our process for our first, smallest lot, where we can put two residences. We have some construction drawings, some plans for what those might look like, we’ve been talking to local contractors to see if we can build them affordably. If not, we might have to go a modular route, because that might be more affordable for people in the income bracket that we’re looking at. On our other lot, we’re looking at a subdivision. So there’s plenty to do with what we have, for the next bunch of years. Whenever possible, we’d like to bring people, organizations, and entities together to create synergy. I think the resources are out there; we just need to match things as best we can. We don’t need to do it all ourselves, but we can be an instigator to bringing things together.

RW: Are there things on your bucket-list that you’d like to accomplish?

KM: I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.

RW: Better do that soon!

KM: I know! I did hike Katahdin, the whole Knife’s Edge and everything else a few years ago, and that was great. And work-wise, I’m giving myself a bunch more years, but I want to see this all come together, with new structures in place, new families here, our school population brought up, restaurants open year-round, and I would love to see that Makerspace take hold.

Sent via email, 15 July 2020

KM: Yes, one of the beauties of living at our house next to the church in Somesville has been that when we do have company, we don’t worry about parking, as long as we select the date carefully. In normal circumstances it is a very busy place. Also it was a great place for our kids to learn to ride a bike, roller skate, etc.
And, I never did get into the history of the house! It had been a parsonage to the church, so many different families have lived here for a few years at a time. One man (now deceased) told me that as a kid, when his family moved to the house, there had been an old woman living there – sort of a ward of the State who came with the house and lived with the new family. He said as kids they were terrible to her – in silly little boy ways – but she never tattled on them. At one point it was a laying hospital for birthing; there was a back staircase to the second floor, with a buzzer; and the site, though maybe not this structure, had served as the post office at one point – so I’ve read/heard. I believe we may be the longest living people in the place, though our original plan was to be there only 18 months. We got attached to the house and the community surrounded with kids back then and decided to stay!