S3-EP5: Kathleen Billings on Steering a Small Town in Maine Through COVID and a Tense Election Year

Oct 30, 2020

SUMMARY

Debbie Weil talks to Kathleen Billings about the challenges of running a small island town in the year of COVID and high political tension.

 

EPISODE NOTES

In this episode, Debbie Weil talks to Kathleen Billings, Town Manager of Stonington, Maine, the small coastal town on Deer Isle that she and her husband now call home.

Debbie wanted to talk to a local leader about the challenges of this election and pandemic year and Kathleen was the perfect person. She is matter of fact, deeply knowledgeable, and forthright.

Kathleen, 56, has been Stonington’s Town Manager for almost 20 years. She tells us how the town’s twin industries of fishing and tourism have fared (Stonington is Maine’s largest fishing port with close to $60 million in seafood landed in 2018), and how she began to prepare for COVID back in February.  She and Debbie talk about the friction between People From Away (PFA) and locals and how it was exacerbated by COVID.

They also talk about the political tensions that Kathleen has had to face this year and how she‘s handled them. On a side note, Kathleen talks about the very real issue of rising sea levels and how the town is addressing them.

They end by reflecting on the year 2020 and how Kathleen has focused on maintaining a positive atmosphere so that everyone can get through this time without being “ground under,” as she puts it. She expresses gratitude for the many nonprofits on the island that address community needs.

ALL PHOTOS: Debbie Weil

 

Mentioned in this episode:

 

Some of the local groups on Deer Isle that work together:

 

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