When storms hit, communities are disrupted, and our leadership is tested. These changing times require that we not only brace for the weather ahead but strengthen our resolve to tackle complex issues together. In the next decade, Maine’s working waterfront, its workforce, and economy will be pressured as never before. To promote courageous leadership and act swiftly to mobilize our resources, the 2020 Waypoints Forum offered an opportunity to address the multitude of challenges facing our coast and look, listen, and vision together for a resilient future.

The event also marked the launch of the Island Institute's publication, Waypoints: Connect – Infrastructure Indicators for Maine’s Coast and Islands, an extended look at the physical, economic, and civic infrastructure that connects and shapes our state’s coastal communities.

Photo Gallery: See photos from the 2020 Waypoints Forum here


Christine Nieves
Co-founder and President
Emerge Puerto Rico

As the co-founder and president of the nonprofit Emerge Puerto Rico, Christine Nieves focuses on rooting cutting-edge climate change leadership and education in community wisdom. Her attention is focused on human consciousness, cognition, evolution, and adaptation to extreme environmental disruptions.

Christine was greeted with the tragedy of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. To initially support her community, she co-founded Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo Mariana (Project for Mutual Aid Mariana), a disaster relief effort with a mission to transform the community of Mariana into a transgenerational catalytic sustainable village by developing and practicing community-level hurricane preparedness plans and building social and physical infrastructure to help withstand uncertainty and future natural disasters. With her eyes set on the long-term recovery, Christine and her collaborators are shifting to sustainable development—from transforming an abandoned school building into a community center for cultural and artistic projects, to identifying and marshaling resources for individuals to launch micro-businesses, her team is finding ways to support healing from individual and collective trauma.

Waypoints Forum 2020 Keyote: Christine Nieves

Panel Discussion

With storms—both literal and figurative—as a frame for the 2020 Waypoints Forum, our panel discussion delved into the role of leadership in navigating the complexities surrounding Portland’s waterfront to explore lessons that are transferable up and down the coast.

Using “storm” as a metaphor to reveal some of the lesser known or surprising components of this issue, panelists identified elements that have been brewing and building over time, the forecasters, a dramatic touchdown moment, its aftermath, the clean-up, and preparations for the next storm.  Discussions worked to build a deeper appreciation for the issues surrounding a place that is central to Maine’s future and identify, while also developing an understanding of how the lessons learned along this part of the coast can be applied by leaders working to shape the rest of it.   

Waypoints Forum 2020 Panel Discussion


Jon P. Jennings
Portland City Manager

Jon Jennings has served as the city manager of Portland, Maine since 2015. 

During his tenure as city manager in Portland, he has focused his efforts on right-sizing municipal government so the city can concentrate on its core services. In order to allow the city to operate more cost effectively and efficiently, and provide excellent customer service, he has been exploring and implementing innovative ways to improve city services. His goal is to improve the city structurally so that it can have the resources it needs in the future to take on more aspirational projects.

Prior to his appointment, he served as the assistant city manager for the city of South Portland, where he focused on administration, economic development, and sustainability in his role as assistant city manager.

Cheryl Crowley
Cliff Island resident and community leader

Cheryl Crowley is a community leader on Cliff Island, Maine. After falling in love with the island as a summer resident, Cheryl met her husband and followed her heart making the island her year-round home for the past 24 years. 

Being “from away” never stopped Cheryl. Along with raising three daughters on the island, Cheryl stepped up to fill many vital community roles. Among these are: President of the nonprofit Sustainable Cliff Island, developer of the Cliff Health Center, EMT on the fire department, and substitute teacher at the school. 

Willis Spear, Jr.
Portland lobsterman and fisherman

Willis Spear hails from a long line of Maine mariners and shipbuilders. Carrying a lobster license since 1964, he began his maritime career lobstering at Willard Beach on Simonton Cove and later moved to work as a sternman on Casco Bay until 1972, when he briefly left Maine to work for Texas Instruments Environmental Services as a marine technician. After returning home in 1976, he went back to lobstering for seven months each year and supplemented this with groundfishing and shrimping during the winter, something he continued to do until 2019, when he started taking winters off due to the closed season on shrimping.

With lifelong experience as a commercial lobsterman and fisherman and a passion for Portland’s waterfront, Willis has long been involved with the issues facing Maine's working waterfront. He has served on over eight different councils, fishing associations, and local committees, frequently speaking out against commercial interests to protect fisherman and marine users from being displaced. Along with his wife of 42 years, Willis raised four boys that followed him on the sea—all fishing in some manner from Portland, with two sailing as engineers on ships in the winter months.  

Steve DiMillo
Owner, DiMillo's Floating Restaurant, Portland

Steve DiMillo is a lifelong resident of Portland, Maine, where he’s worked in the family business, DiMillo’s Restaurant, since 1968. Steve has served in a variety of community roles over the years, including the chairman of Hospitality Maine, a member of Portland’s Waterfront Workgroup, and a former board member of Portland Downtown. Steve will bring his knowledge as manager of Long Wharf, as well as decades of experience as a leader in Portland to bear on our panel conversation. 

Meredith Mendelson
Deputy Commissioner
Maine Department of Marine Resources

Meredith Mendelson has served as Deputy Commissioner for the Maine Department of Marine Resources since May 2012, with a focus on the interface of state and federal marine resources policy. The agency has a broad mission that includes conservation of marine and estuarine resources, and assessment, regulation, and enforcement of coastal fisheries and aquaculture. She sits on the board of directors for the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and the Portland Fish Pier Authority. 

Leadership Talks

Following the panel, speakers from Maine and beyond shared their personal "storm" stories to highlight the leadership that is guiding their communities through times of change.

Waypoints Forum 2020 Leadership Talks


Emily Lane
International Sales Manager, Luke's Lobster
Chair of the Island Institute Board of Trustees

Emily Lane, a full-time Vinalhaven resident, currently serves as International Sales Manager for Luke’s Lobster and chairs the Board of Trustees for the Island Institute. She has been selling Maine lobster since 1991, serving as General Manager and Export Sales and Marketing Manager for Claw Islands Foods. In 2000, Emily became Export Sales and Marketing Manager for Portland Shellfish a position she held until 2010. From 2010-2017, she served as VP of Sales for Calendar Islands Maine Lobster. She has extensive experience marketing to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and has been responsible for all logistics, certification, and country requirements for exporting and marketing Maine lobster. 

She has served on a number of local Boards on Vinalhaven, including the Board of Selectman, The Vinalhaven Land Trust, and a Board member for the Islands Community Medical Services. Emily is also President of Vinalhaven Kelp Inc., a kelp aquaculture lease project on Vinalhaven.

R. Miles Stair
Trustee, Gifft Hill School, St. John, US Virgin Islands

Miles Stair was chairman of the Board of Trustees of Gifft Hill School on St. John in September 2017, when the island was impacted by two Category 5 hurricanes within two weeks. The 5,000 year round resident population faced huge challenges to regain public services and an economic lifeline for the future.

As chair of Gifft Hill School, he was instrumental in the growth and development of a robust 12-year program of experiential education, academic rigor, and compassionate community. The school has received many awards for its green programs and sustainability focus and shares many of the challenges of Maine’s island schools.

Miles has had a 40+ year career on the island of St. John, first in the hospitality industry in the islands and then as a Realtor. He has served the island community in many leadership roles on various boards.

Ania Wright
Student, College of the Atlantic

Ania Wright is a senior at College of the Atlantic, and is serving as the Youth Representative to the Maine Climate Council. She is a founding member of the group Maine Youth for Climate Justice, which has been organizing youth from around the state of Maine to push for climate action on local, state, and national levels. She has also been involved in international climate politics, traveling to three UN climate conferences as a student delegate. In her time abroad, she has worked with activist Greta Thunberg and other climate warriors to ensure justice and equity in the UN negotiations. Now in her final year of college, she is conducting a thesis on youth climate activism in Maine and creating a database of climate justice resources.   

Thank you to our Sponsors!

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Bar Harbor Bank & Trust

2020 Community Champion Award

For a small island, Monhegan has faced some big challenges in recent years—but this small island has responded in a big way. To recognize the community's ability to work collaboratively in addressing these challenges, Monhegan's leaders were honored with the Island Institute’s 2020 Community Champion award at the Waypoints Forum in Portland on February 7th. Monhegan Island Fellow Dan DeBord accepted the award from Island Institute Board Chair Emily Lane and Chief Community Development Officer Suzanne MacDonald. Read more in this article in The Working Waterfront.


Off the Rock After-Party

Following the Forum, the Island Institute hosted its first after-party, OFF THE ROCK, celebrating the unique culture and community of Maine’s islands. Taking place at SPACE in Portland, performances included three unique sets of music featuring the folk, punk, and rock n’ roll of Maine island life. Bands included Tiger Saw, Bait Bag, and The Jacob James.

See images from the evening here