Speakers, Moderators & Guests

Alf Anderson – Executive Director, Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce

Alf has been involved in the organization and promotion of darky sky events since 2015. The dark sky above Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park is a popular attraction that is protected by local ordinances. Anderson has been raising awareness through events about the threat of light pollution to Maine's natural resources.

Sally Davis Berry – Tourism Industry Expert

Sally Berry has more than 20 years of experience in the travel and tourism Industry.  She has experience as a corporate meeting planner, receptive tour operator, Director of Sales at attractions and a regional DMO. She spent 8 years at the Corning Museum of Glass as the Global Sales Manager

She was named a Top 10 Most influential woman in the Group tour market and a Top Innovator in the Group tour market by Groups Today magazine.

TourOperator.com named Sally a Top Tourism Networker in 2018 and a Top 20 US Tourism Industry Professional in 2015.

Sally has been writing an industry blog since 2016 and now offers Online Courses through her TourismProAcademy.com site.

Mark H.C. Bessire - Judy and Leonard Lauder Director, Portland Museum of Art

Mark H.C. Bessire was named Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art in 2009. In the years since, Bessire has led the PMA through a period of unprecedented growth, evolution, and innovation across collections, exhibitions, audience engagement, community collaboration, and critically, diversity, equity, inclusivity, access, and sustainability.

We are delighted to welcome Mark as this year's Keynote Speaker. To learn more about Mark, click here.

Sarah Flink – Executive Director, CruiseMaine

Sarah Flink joined the CruiseMaine coalition in 2017 and has been serving as Executive Director since spring of 2018. Since coming to CruiseMaine, she has overseen an overhaul of the mission, branding and website, and helped facilitate a statewide Cruise Visitor Survey. Along with spearheading the marketing and sales efforts, Sarah continues to emphasize community engagement and partnership to expand economic benefit to the state of Maine while also addressing the challenges that come with any type of industry.

 

Prior to joining CruiseMaine, Sarah had extensive experience in the hospitality industry as a manager at some of the most well-known restaurants in New York City, including Blue Hill, Little Park and Lafayette. Her experience also includes work with a strategic communications firm, a tech startup and as a philosophy professor. Throughout her career, Sarah has focused on relationship building, project management and process improvement.


Originally from rural Minnesota, Sarah lives in Portland and spends as much time as she can sailing along the Maine Coast.

Melissa Cherry – Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Miles Partnership

In this new executive role at Miles, Cherry leads the development of the organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consulting practice to serve current and future clients, in addition to guiding the company’s internal DEI processes and best practices.  

 

From 2016 to 2021, Melissa Cherry served as the Chief Operating Officer at Destinations International and was responsible for the development and execution of the overall marketing and communications, information technology, meetings and education strategies to promote and elevate the association's mission and brand to drive awareness of its impact to advance the success of the destination marketing industry. She also led and developed the association’s first equity, diversity and inclusion strategic roadmap released in 2020.   

 

Prior to joining Destinations International, Cherry was senior vice-president for marketing and cultural tourism at Choose Chicago leading domestic and international marketing strategies, including all efforts for brand strategy, integrated marketing, research, advertising and event marketing. Additionally, she launched the first-ever Cultural Tourism Strategy to increase visitation and awareness to Chicago’s cultural entities, events and neighborhoods. Cherry’s 25 years of experience in the industry includes prior positions at the Chicago History Museum and was responsible for implementing marketing and communications strategies, and the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board where she was responsible for promoting the cultural destinations of Los Angeles. 

Laura Fortman – Commissioner, Maine Department of Labor

Sworn in in January of 2019, Commissioner Fortman leads the statewide Department’s work to help employers recruit and train a talented workforce, provide workers with the skills they need, assist individuals when jobs are lost, ensure safe and fair workplaces, and research employment data to support job growth. She has served as a senior executive on both the federal and state level, working to protect the rights of workers and ensure that they have access to jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families. Fortman celebrated the legacy of former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, who led the way for the Fair Labor Standards Act to be enacted, as the Executive Director of the Frances Perkins Center in Damariscotta from 2011-2013. As the Executive Director of Maine Women’s Lobby for over a decade, Fortman advocated for low-income women and their families, and led efforts to end sexual assault, domestic violence, and discrimination.

Heather Johnson – Commissioner, Maine Department of Economic & Community Development

Heather Johnson grew up in Skowhegan and graduated from the University of Maine. She began her career by building a diverse background in the private technology sector including sales, operations and general management roles at Nokia, Gateway and Toshiba. With continually expanding roles she created startup operations inside large companies, developed new products for new markets, and ran a $1.2 billion retail business.

 

After leaving the private sector, Heather had the opportunity to concentrate on rural economic development at Somerset Economic Development Corporation. During her time as the Executive Director she focused on key economic drivers such as; connectivity, workforce participation, and potential growth markets. While serving as the Director of ConnectME Heather was responsible for managing a small grant program, mapping key assets, working with communities and businesses to help them identify needs and opportunities to utilize connectivity to enable their goals. Heather was able to able to make changes that positions the ConnectME to move forward into the connectivity space.

 

As Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development Heather continues to dedicate her career to fostering economic development, both in private companies and in rural communities across Maine.

Steve Lyons – Director, Maine Office of Tourism

Steve has been with the Maine Office of Tourism for more than 20 years, being named Director in July 2017. He is responsible for overall operations of the Maine Office of Tourism, having moved into this position following nine years as Director of Marketing. In that capacity, he played a critical role in developing a tourism marketing strategy for the state of Maine.  In 2018, he led the development of the Maine Office of Tourism’s Five-Year Strategic Plan.

 

Throughout his tenure at the Office of Tourism, Steve managed the division’s marketing research, tourism marketing campaigns, web site development, group tour marketing, fulfillment operations and contracts for visitor information centers, publications and PR.

 

Steve is an At-Large member of the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors, serves on the Board of Directors for Discover New England, a regional international marketing collaborative; and represents the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development on the Board of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Amtrak service between Boston and Maine.

 

Steve was born in Vermont where he earned a BS in Marketing from Castleton State College.  He began his tourism marketing career at Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont. Following 5 years at Stowe, he worked in hospitality positions in Glacier National Park and Portland, Oregon before returning to New England where he held positions as Director of Marketing at Mt. Cranmore Ski Resort in New Hampshire, and Public Information Specialist at the Vermont Department of Tourism.

 

In his spare time you can often find Steve day-hiking, paddling, snowshoeing or skiing somewhere in Maine.

Donna Moreland – Destination Development Specialist, Maine Office of Tourism

Donna Moreland, MA,CHE., has over forty years of experience in tourism and hospitality. Her experience includes management in the private sector, including a ski resort, a sporting camp, marketing to the public sector through chamber of commerce and convention & visitors’ bureau work. Donna has served as teaching faculty in hospitality graduate and undergraduate programs at Husson University & the University of Maine. In 2012, Donna joined the Maine Office of Tourism to focus on Group Travel sales and development. Currently Donna is working as a Destination Development Specialist for rural Maine communities.

Chiara Moriconi – Senior Tourism Officer, Maine Office of Tourism

Chiara Moriconi moved from Italy to Maine in 2015 and began working in the hospitality industry in Portland. Holding a degree in Linguistics and a Masters in Journalism, Chiara has previously worked for various international publications and founded a language school in 2010. Growing up in Rome, she was continuously surrounded by art and history, and subsequently opened a tour company where she finally found her passion for all-things tourism. She was hired in early 2019 as Policy Development Specialist for the Maine Office of Tourism responsible for the development of group tour and meetings. In her expanded role as Senior Tourism Officer she assists with grant program administration and domestic and international itinerary development.

Kimberley Moore – Director, Bureau of Employment Services at Maine Department of Labor

Kim Moore is the Bureau of Employment Services Director for the Maine Department of Labor, responsible for overnight and delivery of federal and state employment and training programs and services through Maine’s CareerCenters statewide.  Kim has spent more than 14 years honing her skills as a career development professional and has extensive experience in workforce development, career services, grant administration, and project/program management. Her passion for linking and braiding systems and programs to develop a seamless continuum of services to support marginalized jobseekers and employers was developed through her work as Coordinator for the Greater Portland Workforce Initiative (GPWI) and as Workforce Services Manager for Virginia’s fully comprehensive One-Stop in Roanoke, VA.

 

John Meader– Founder, Northern Stars Planetarium & Educational Services

John T. Meader owns and operates Northern Stars Planetarium and Educational Services—a portable planetarium and astronomy education business he founded in 1987. He teaches under both the dome and the night sky at Maine schools, libraries, museums, and non-profit organizations. John is the vice president of Dark Sky Maine, a 501c non-profit. He’s also a Registered Maine Guide, an avid canoeist, and a photographer, having shown his work in numerous venues across central Maine.

Maureen LaSalle – Department Chair, Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management

Assistant Professor Maureen LaSalle is currently the Department Chair for Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management as well as the Director of the Peter McKernan Hospitality Center at Southern Maine Community College. Maureen also teaches undergraduate classes within the Tourism and Hospitality program at Husson University and a graduate class in the Tourism and Hospitality Management program at Reykjavik University in Iceland. Maureen holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine; a Master’s degree from Saint Joseph’s College and has been awarded the designation of Certified Hospitality Educator by the American Hotel & Lodging Education Institute. Maureen shares her expertise in the areas of hospitality, lodging operations and wellness tourism, presenting for organizations such as Visit Portland and the Association for Collegiate Conference and Event Directors. Recently, she presented at the ICHRIE western conference on the topic of collaboration between a community college and university.  She has over 25 years of hospitality experience that includes working for Starwood Hotels, The award winning White Barn Inn and Johnson & Wales University. Maureen has been recognized as a manager of the year for two organizations and recently received a national award for teacher excellence. She is the recently appointed Chair of the Hospitality Maine Educational Foundation board.

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Jay Salyers – Senior Vice President, Miles Partnership

Jay’s specialty is in developing marketing plans that match clients’ strategic objectives, specifically in aligning resources with the latest research-based trends and fostering collaboration. He is responsible for maintaining positive, productive relationships with Miles’ clients, as well as their overall satisfaction with their services. Jay has been with Miles for 17 years and has 20 total years of travel and hospitality experience.

Andy Shepard – General Manager & CEO, Saddleback Mountain 

Andy led a number of businesses at L.L.Bean through the bid 1980’s to 2000. In keeping with the tradition Leon Gorman, L.L.Bean’s long-serving CEO, of asking his employees to give back to their communities, Andy began working on a plan to address some of the challenges facing rural communities in Maine. The Maine Winter Sport Center (MWSC) was founded in 1999 and became a respected voice in a global dialogue about a sustainable, empowering approach to improving health and well-being for individuals and communities in Maine. Over his years at the head of MWSC he was able to raise over $45 million in grants and donations to sustain the work of the company and had over $100 million in economic impact across rural Maine.

After 21 years as the president and CEO of the MWSC, and with the organization on solid footing, Andy stepped aside to focus all of his attention on getting Saddleback Mountain resurrected. That is a passion project he has been working on for 6 years; the first three trying to find the right buyer for the mountain and the last 3 collaborating with Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund to buy and then reinvest in the mountain’s recovery. When Arctaris purchased the mountain in January 2020, Andy took on the role of General Manager and CEO.

 

His focus now is on creating a sustainable business model for the iconic mountain and leveraging that to address many of the challenges facing rural communities; attracting seasonal workers to move back to the Rangeley region by increasing access to affordable, quality childcare, affordable housing, providing seasonal workers with year-round benefits and expanding access to health and wellness care in rural communities.

 

In response to Andy’s work he has been awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Maine at Orono )2005,) The Russell Wilder Award from the US Ski and Snowboard Association for National Excellence in Youth Programming (2009,) MaineBiz Nonprofit Business Leader of the Year (2011,) the Maine Skiing Hall of Fame (2016) and the US Biathlon Hall of Fame (2019.)

Joseph St. Germain – President & Partner, Downs & St. Germain Research

Joseph graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota – Duluth with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology (2002) and received his Master of Science (2005) and Ph.D. (2009) in Educational Psychology from Florida State University.

Joseph joined the firm in 2007, then called Kerr & Downs Research, and is now President/Partner. Throughout his tenure, Joseph has been involved with all stages of the research process. He specializes in moderating focus groups and multivariate statistical techniques, such as structural equation modeling and conjoint analysis, which take survey data and translate it into easy to understand models that predict attitudes and behavior.

Joseph is a former professor at Flagler College – Tallahassee campus, a member of Leadership Tallahassee – Class 32, and is the Marketing Director of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Mediocre Golf Association (MGA).

Outside of the office, Joseph loves to golf, is a classically trained gamer, and you can occasionally hear him discussing fantasy football on the air. Joseph resides with his wife, Shanna, and two pets, Jimmer and Kemba.

Jenny Ward – Maine Brand Strategist, Appalachian Mountain Club

Jenny is a graduate of the University of Maine and Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, she was instrumental in the successful launch of AMC’s Medawisla Lodge & Cabins and led the effort to designate AMC’s Maine Woods as an International Dark Sky Park. She is a Registered Maine Guide and serves on the boards of Destination Moosehead Lake, Moosehead Lake Region Economic Development Corp, Greenville Planning Board and is a Piscataquis County Advisor for the Maine Community Foundation. She also volunteers on a number of conservation and community projects. In her free time she loves to hike, trail run, cross country ski, and stand under the stars and look up.

Barbara Murphy – Director of Development and Habitat For All Program, Mahoosuc Land Trust

Barbara Murphy is the Director of Development and Habitat For All for Mahoosuc Land Trust in Bethel.  She is interested in democratizing the definition of conservation to recognize and celebrate activities that happen on a small-scale - in backyards, on roadsides, and in public spaces.

Vern Maxfield– Town Manager, Town of Woodstock

Vern has nearly 40 years of Municipal experience serving in nearly every form of town government including  Planning Board,  Selectmen and  Town Clerk, all in Waterford, Maine, and now has been the Town Manager of Woodstock for 33 years. He has also served as Town Meeting Moderator, at various times, in 10 different towns over the last 26 years. Vern enjoys Town Government and its purest form of democracy.

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Mike Wilson – Senior Program Director, Northern Forest Center

Mike Wilson is Senior Program Director for the Northern Forest Center, regional non-profit working to create bold possibilities that give rise to vibrant rural communities across the Northern Forest region of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Mike has 25 years of experience with rural community and economic development including 10 years leading work by the Maine Woods Consortium to deliver training and cooperative marketing services to tourism business across the Maine Woods, and worked with the Maine Office of Tourism to create the Community Destination Academy. The Center is increasingly focused on incorporating principles of sustainable tourism and impact management into destination development in Maine and across the Northern Forest.

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