AARP Maine Announces Fellowship Recipients for the Inaugural Maine State Walking College

Posted on 05/20/22

PORTLAND, May 13, 2022 – AARP Maine today announced the names of 12 local advocates who have received fellowships to participate in the inaugural Maine State Walking College.

The program is presented in partnership with AARP Livable Communities and America Walks, a national education and advocacy organization which works to advance safe, equitable, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and move by giving people and communities the resources to effectively advocate for change.

"We are delighted to welcome this group of passionate community leaders, who are working to improve walkability and livability in communities throughout the state," said Noël Bonam, AARP Maine State Director. "The fellows represent a range of backgrounds and experiences, including health and wellness, traffic engineering, economic development, and education.”

The 2022 Maine State Walking College fellows are:

  • Paul Armstrong, Palermo
  • Anne Ball, Hallowell
  • Christine Bartkowiak, Portland
  • John Bastey, Hallowell
  • Catherine Cooper, Brunswick
  • Anthony Donovan, Portland
  • Dawn Gordon, Augusta
  • Michael Hall, Augusta
  • Pat Pinto, Portland
  • Barbara Riddle-Dvorak, Millinocket
  • Duane Scott, Augusta

The following Walking College mentors have been appointed to provide coaching and facilitate discussion groups:

  • Kirsten Brewer, Climate Corps Coordinator, Volunteer Maine
  • Jean Sideris, Executive Director, Bicycle Coalition of Maine
  • Cary Tyson, Executive Director, Portland Downtown

The Walking College curriculum has been designed to expand the capacity of local advocates to be effective community change agents. Fellows will complete a six-module distance-education program this summer, covering the science behind the benefits of walking, evaluation of built environments, as well as communication skills and building relationships with decision makers. At the end of the course, each fellow will develop an individual walking action plan for their community.

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Mentors of the 2022 Maine State Walking College

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Kirsten Brewer is the Climate Corps Coordinator for Volunteer Maine, the state agency that oversees volunteerism and AmeriCorps in Maine. An Augusta resident, she volunteers with CAPITAL (Cyclists and Pedestrians Invigorating the Augusta Life). This grassroots advocacy group collaborates with the City of Augusta and other stakeholders to help make the streets safer for everyone. Kirsten was a 2020 national Walking College fellow. Her professional experience spans conservation, trails, and national service programs. She also serves on the GrowSmart Maine board.

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Jean Sideris is the Executive Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to making Maine a better and safer place to bike and walk. A lifetime environmental and civil engagement advocate, she has spent her career in nonprofits advocating for effective solutions to our most pressing issues, including climate change, clean energy, and active transportation. Jean has an undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder and a master’s in journalism from Northeastern University. She enjoys biking, hiking, skiing, and the many other ways to take advantage of Maine’s outdoor wonders.

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Cary Tyson is the Executive Director of Portland Downtown. He was a 2020 America Walks fellow. He's spent over 20 years in nonprofit work focusing on downtown revitalization, historic preservation, and economic development. Cary holds a master’s degree in public administration and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Prior to moving to Maine he served as Director of Main Street Arkansas for a dozen years and held a small consulting practice where he focused on downtown revitalization and historic preservation.

Fellows of the 2022 Maine State Walking College

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Paul Armstrong has been living off-grid in Palermo, Maine for over 30 years. After a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, he bought a construction company. He was injured doing construction and then opened a supported employment agency. Over time his injuries overtook his ability to work gainfully. He has since devoted most of his time to volunteer efforts, and currently serves as the Volunteer Advocacy Lead for AARP Maine. He is a member of his local Grange. He volunteers growing food for people in his county, helping a firewood bank and helping with many local events and projects.

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Anne Ball became Senior Program Director for the Maine Downtown Center of the Maine Development Foundation in 2016. The Maine Downtown Center is a statewide resource for downtown revitalization and serves as the coordinator for the national Main Street program. She originally joined the MDF in 2012 as a consultant to coordinate Healthy Maine Streets, a three-year CDC Community Transformation Grant, and Grants to Green Maine, a partnership with Maine Community Foundation and Efficiency Maine. Previously Anne was the Cultural Heritage Tourism Coordinator for Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development. She has been a consultant for many organizations including Maine Preservation, Maine Humanities Council, Maine State Museum, and private architecture firms and communities. Anne is skilled at getting diverse partners to work together, learn each other’s languages, and bring new energy to their work. She has a strong passion for the preservation of downtown communities and sees the clear connection between open and welcoming communities as indicators of health, quality of life, and a strong economy. Anne has a BS from St. Lawrence University and an MA in historic preservation from Boston University.

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Christine Bartkowiak, a Portland resident, attends business school at Southern Maine Community College and works in taxes as an assistant office manager. She loves to read at the public library and volunteers at the Maine Historical Society in her free time.

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John Bastey’s father was a pilot in the US Army Air Corps who flew in the Air Force for 20 years. The family traveled to six different duty stations from Massachusetts (where John was born) to Texas to Guam to California to Spain, until his father retired in Bangor, where John graduated from Bangor High School. After four years as a Coast Guard radioman and graduating from the University of Maine at Orono with a BS in biology, specializing in marine science, John accepted a job in the newly created Maine Department of Environmental Protection in Augusta. At the MDEP he rose to the position of Director of the Bureau of Air Quality for the State of Maine. After 17 years at the department, John left the DEP for an environmental consulting position with the Augusta-based firm Weil and Howe, becoming Vice President in 1998. In 2005 he accepted a position as the Director of Legislative Relations for the Maine Dental Association. He worked with the Maine dentists until he retired in 2019. John is active in his town, Hallowell. He served 20 years on the planning board and is currently on several town committees and involved in local activities.

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Cathy Curtis Cooper is retired and lives in Brunswick. She is married and has two grown children and two standard poodles. She no longer drives but she walks about five miles a day and belongs to six walking organizations. Additionally, she cycles and enjoys two cycling clubs. She likes to take advantage of the Brunswick community’s opportunities to be healthy.

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Tony Donovan has been engaged in land use planning and design throughout New England his entire career. He has a business administration degree from the University of Maine, a master’s degree in public administration with an advanced degree in urban planning from the University of Maine Muskie School of Public Policy. After a five-year stint as a planner and economic developer with Maine state, regional and local governments, Tony entered the field of commercial real estate. He has been a Licensed Maine Realtor® since 1982, practicing commercial real estate brokerage since 1997. Tony’s background lends itself to a specialization in land-use and transportation policy and planning. He currently specializes in site location of development at passenger train stations and is an adherent to Smart Growth and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) design. Tony has engaged in the principles of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, launched in 2009 by the Obama administration, which is based on walkability. In 2009 Tony, along with like-minded colleagues, established the Maine Rail Transit Coalition with the goal of expanding passenger train transportation and connecting mobility design to communities throughout the region.

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Dawn Littlefield Gordon works as the state lead for the Maine Center for Disease Control’s Obesity Prevention efforts, employed by Medical Care Development Public Health, where she has served as embedded state health department staff for over a decade. In her role at the state, she convenes several state leadership teams, including the State Active Community Environment Workgroup. Se is known for her expertise in creating cohesive collaborative partnerships to implement strategies that support making the healthy choice the easy choice. Over her career, she has managed state, local, and federally funded initiatives that focus on improving health outcomes. She has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and is a trained exercise, lifestyle, and weight management consultant. A Smithfield resident, Dawn enjoys spending time outside, most days engaging in walking, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, or working in her garden.

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Michael Hall is the Executive Director for the Augusta Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit affiliated with Main Street America. His experience includes economic development, fundraising, and civic engagement. He has also worked with Historic Scotland, English Heritage, and UNESCO during his studies abroad. Michael holds master's degrees in communications and architectural conservation from Rutgers University and the University of Edinburgh, respectively, as well as a bachelor’s in history from Centre College. An avid writer, Michael has been twice published for his books on urban studies. His works include “Augusta, the Best Little City in New England. Seriously.” and “Small Cities Thinking Big: Revitalization Lessons from Augusta Maine and Other Communities.”

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Pat Pinto’s current work is focused on her serving as an Aging Well advocate and activist. In 2018, Pat began her work to disrupt misnomers about aging and to focus on people’s desires to age in place. From 2019 to 2021 she served as the AARP Maine Volunteer State President. Since 2018 she has also served as the Brand Ambassador for Aging2.0, a global organization focused on supporting companies bringing innovative technologies into the aging space. Pat’s professional background includes 45+ years serving as a corporate executive, a nonprofit leader and an entrepreneur. Her special skills and talents lie in “envisioning” the future and developing new markets, products, and business/organization directions. Her education includes a BS in macroeconomics and an MBA with a specialization in entrepreneurship.

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Barbara Riddle-Dvorak is a native New Yorker (educated at Reed College and Brandeis University) who's been an avid walker all her life and hasn't owned a car in 20 years. Her passion for the social and environmental benefits of walking is well-known among her circle of friends and neighbors. She's a writer and medical editor (originally a biochemist) who moved to Millinocket two years ago and is currently a Lifelong Maine Age-Friendly AmeriCorps Project Organizer, with improving walkability in the town as one of the major goals of her team. At 78, she's excited to be involved in the movement to get more Americans motivated to walk and rediscover the joys of connecting with the earth and other people, unencumbered by tons of lethal, polluting metal machinery. For more about her writing, visit www.barbarariddle.com

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Duane Scott is a resident of Augusta, Maine. He retired as Director of Multimodal Planning after 36 years with the Maine Department of Transportation. Since retiring in 2015, Duane has been active in several community activities and organizations including Augusta’s Age-Friendly Committee, the Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail (board member), Maine’s Public Transit Advisory Committee, Augusta’s Comprehensive Plan Update Committee, and CAPITAL (Cyclists and Pedestrians Invigorating the Augusta Life).

Maine State Walking College Planning Committee

Noël Bonam, State Director, AARP Maine
Carl Bucciantini, Volunteer State President, AARP Maine
Rebecca Delphia, Livable Communities Advisor, AARP
Patricia Oh, Program Manager, UMaine Center on Aging
Jean Sideris, Executive Director, Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Kait Spielmaker, Communications Manager, America Walks
Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director, America Walks
David Torresen, Senior Operations Associate, AARP Maine

About the Walking College: The Walking College was developed in 2014 by America Walks, with funding support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, 25 to 30 local advocates receive Walking College fellowships to learn about best practices in walkable community advocacy and develop walking action plans, which advance pedestrian safety and walkability in their communities. In 2021, AARP Livable Communities partnered with America Walks to develop and implement State Walking Colleges. The goal of this year’s program is to build the capacity of local advocates in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas. More info here.

This story is provided by AARP Maine. Visit the AARP Maine page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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