2017 40 Under 40 Honorees

View the 2017 LA Metro Magazine 40 Under 40 Edition

Photos and Editorial Provided by LA Metro Magazine

Building LA

Tricia Tomlinson

Building LA

Owner and General Manager at Ben’s Burritos

Tricia Tomlinson sees a perfect fit between anthropology and food.

“I am a foodie with a background in anthropology. It’s a good mesh,” said Tomlinson, whose Mexican eatery is known to run a special called the Don Ho, a 12-inch burrito filled with carnitas pork, pineapple salsa, rice, cheese and poblano creama. “I have lived in the area my whole live and I got started with a passion for cooking and a general interest in public service.”

Tomlinson said that her restaurant has a “pay forward” board which provides meals for people that may not be able to afford eating out.

“It is an equalizer for our community,” she said. “Everyone gets to eat out.”

On the diversity in LA, she said, “I am so very grateful for the intergenerational community, the arts, music, and a general sense of pride for our city.” She does see a need to break out from traditional development models for housing and she supports more integration of services for the immigrant population.

When she goes out to eat, Tomlinson doesn’t travel far preferring nearby, Mother India.

“They are our neighbors and we have been eating there for years. The owners are kind and hard- working and present an always fresh and healthy product.”

As for her thoughts for the future, Tomlinson envisioned, “Working at my restaurant part-time and traveling the world with my children. Maybe Greece, Africa, and Europe.”

Misty Parker

Building LA

Economic Development Specialist at the City of Lewiston

The LA area has so much potential when seen through the eyes of Misty Parker.

“Through my role with the city, I am focused on downtown redevelopment, workforce development initiatives, and supporting business owners to establish and expand in the city,” said Parker. “Additionally, I work with developers to help structure public and private partnerships to help build their projects.”

She’s always been interested in land use planning, working for several years in the Mid-Coast area.

“I grew to enjoy working with the business community, identifying problems or barriers they experienced, and helping them find ways to overcome those challenges to meet their goals. Small businesses are the backbone of Maine’s economy, and to me it’s very exciting to be in a role charged with helping them grow and succeed.”

She admits that she’s always had an interest in downtown areas, the heart and soul of towns and cities.

“The work I do is a perfect marriage of my land use planning background and interest in supporting small businesses and vibrant downtowns. Lewiston has a gorgeous downtown with some amazing businesses. I feel lucky to help play a role in unlocking the potential here.”

Describing her own residence, she said, “My husband and I live in a farming neighborhood. I have a large garden that I enjoy caring for and last year I started beekeeping. I enjoy knowing more about these fascinating insects. When not enjoying our little farm, I love kayaking, swimming, fishing, hiking, and camping.”

Michael Malloy

Building LA

Attorney at The Malloy Firm

Michael Malloy has an undergraduate degree with a double major in French and International Politics and Economics.

“I first wanted to do something around international relations. My first job out of college was in immigration law, representing U.S. employers of foreign nationals, and helping to assist victims of persecution. I got to use my language skills, and saw a way to make a living while also helping the most vulnerable,” said the Auburn resident who lives with “an amazing wife and two gorgeous kids.” “That led me to law school, and my interests grew to include broader business and municipal interests, but always with a strong desire to help bring people together.”

Malloy cites one special moment in his work, that happened several years ago, where he helped a victim of politically motivated torture start a new life in the local community.

“We were able to bring his family here as well,” said Malloy. “Where once they feared for their lives, they have a fresh start here in Maine.”

Initially, it was work that brought Malloy to LA.

“I was recruited by a local law firm several years ago. Even though it was in the depths of the recession, jobs were scarce, and I had a family to support and huge student loans to repay, it was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” reflects Malloy. “I ended up finding the community where I want to spend the rest of my life.”

Molly F. McGill

Building LA

Senior Writer at The Brand Collective

Molly McGill was raised in Auburn, then travelled, and returned to Auburn. The travel time was quite a journey.

“I moved to Vermont to attend college. From there, I moved to Thailand where I ran an architectural, design, and luxury lifestyle magazine that spanned the Asia-Pacific region. In 2008, I moved back to Maine to be close to my mother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, never thinking I’d return to my hometown.”

McGill remarks that she and her husband began to form roots in LA and when the opportunity to move away came up, they happily declined. “This was now our community. This was now home.”

McGill admits that she has been a storyteller since birth and a professional writer all of her career.

“Although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment my career started, some may argue that it was when, as a young child, I wrote my own novella based on the story “The Secret Garden,” said McGill. “It was that spark into the world of writing that forever stuck with me.”
McGill said that it is the people in the LA Metro area that inspire her to live and work here.

“There are dedicated, passionate people working in all capacities to make LA as great as it has the potential to be,” said McGill. “It’s getting swept up in that enthusiasm and passion that really lights my fire.”

Creative Geniuses

Marlo Hewitt

Creative Geniuses

Owner & Cosmetologist at Hair Station

Marlo Hewitt’s mother and grandmother were cosmetologists, so it is no surprise that she was curious about the profession.

“Once I starting doing friends hair in high school for fun, I discovered the creative freedom and artistic side of things and instantly knew it was for me,” said Hewitt who opened her own studio, Hair Station, in July of 2015.

Prior to that, Hewitt earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine and worked a semester toward her master’s degree.

“I soon discovered that sitting behind a desk wasn’t for me and I set out to make my hairdressing passion a reality. I love making people feel beautiful and confident. When you feel confident, you can conquer the world!”

Hewitt admits that she has a passion for interior decorating and creative projects and she loves working on her house. This coming June, she is getting married and looks forward to many happy years raising a family.

“I grew up in Mechanic Falls and have always traveled to Auburn and Lewiston for both work and play and when it came time to pick a community to buy my first home, Auburn seemed to be a perfect choice,” said Hewitt. “Once I settled into the city, it was an easy decision to set up shop for my business right down the road from my new home.”
She says, “LA is a community that is large enough to serve all of our needs, but small enough to know one another.”

Alexandra Hood

Creative Geniuses

Olin Arts Center Operations Supervisor at Bates College

Art is in the eye of the beholder, especially for 22-year-old Alexandra Hood.

At the Olins Arts Center at Bates College, she coordinates programs that involve art, music, and visual culture. The work finds her scheduling the community figure drawing sessions, creating posters for advertisement, promoting concerts, and scheduling event spaces, among many other duties.

In her other venture of making art her business she said, “My favorite part of being a freelance artist is proving myself by overcoming hurdles and watching my business grow. I have been on the LA Art Walk Committee since 2016 and I do live painting at a variety of arts events, participating wherever I can. I make my creative work widely accessible, which I like to think bridges a gap between a community and supporting local artists.”

Regarding her free time, Hood said, “When I’m not creating artwork for someone else, I’m creating it for myself. I love to sit outside and sketch trees with ballpoint pen for hours during the summer. I’m also involved with L/A Arts and the Union of Maine Visual Artists.”

Hood believes that LA has a unique identity that needs local support to thrive.

“The idea of the arts and art makers being embraced in our economy should be an active conversation. Instead of traveling to Portland or shopping at big box retailers, we should look at what our own community has to offer and help it flourish.”

Danielle Eaton

Creative Geniuses

Marketing & Public Relations Business Partner for Clinical Lines of Service at Spectrum Healthcare Partners

Whether performing in the theatre or working in public relations, Danielle Eaton feels at home being center stage.

“I started performing at L/A Community Little Theatre at 9 years old when my parents became exhausted by my nightly post-dinner song and dance routines. They saw an ad in the paper for auditions for the musical, Oliver and they dragged me down to the theatre,” said Eaton, who performed CLT’s 2016 production of All That Jazz. “Being a painfully shy and quiet child, my mother had to pry me from her leg and push me out onto that stage. But once I found the thrill of performing, I’ve been addicted ever since.”

Eaton continues to perform at CLT, as well as with Out of the Box Theater, Lyric Music Theater and at the Thread Theater once a month at the Franco Center.

“I grew up in LA going to school at Holy Cross and St. Dom’s. I moved to the city to earn my degree at Suffolk University in Boston. I always said I wanted to be in a place where there were more people than pine trees,” said Eaton.

After meeting her future husband while still in school, she moved back home. “We’ve now built our dream home, out in the woods, surrounded by many pine trees.”

As for social life in LA, she said, “I cringe whenever someone complains that there’s nothing to do here because if you look, you’ll find more than you know what to do with.”

Tom Ardia

Creative Geniuses

Bar Manager at Marche

Tom Ardia’s job is to create an experience from behind the bar at Marche.

“I create cocktail menus, bring in great craft beer and wine and make sure my guests have a pleasant experience,” said Ardia. “I’m constantly learning how to be a better bartender, and being a part of the United States Bartenders Guild has been a big part of doing a better job with guests and creativity.”

“I started at Ground Round in Auburn back in 1995. I would hang out there and one day they asked if wanted a job,” said Ardia, reflecting how his career started. “As much as I like being behind the bar, I also like to visit new bars to eat and drink. I’m always interested in what other places are doing.

He’s become hooked on the downtown Lewiston setting, having worked at The Vault, Orchid and now Marche. He likes to frequent the likes of Fuel, Orchid, DaVinci’s, Fishbones and Rails but can’t always make the time.

“It can be hard because I usually work similar hours to all of these places,” said Ardia.

What he likes best about the LA scene is the potential that is starting to emerge in the area.

“I feel big things can happen down here with the right ideas and support,” adds Ardia. “There is a lot of room in our cities to add different style bars and restaurants and I want to be a part of creating that culture locally.”

Economic Development

Gabrielle Russell

Economic Development

Architect at Platz Associates

As an architect, Gabrielle Russell helps design buildings. She’s also helping to design the future of LA.

“I grew up in Auburn, left for college, and returned to the area after graduation. After seeing how much opportunity and untapped potential there is here, I began to think it is a great place to stay and get rooted in even more,” said Russell. “Although I love other cities, it has been great to see LA change over the years and improve because of all of the hard work and investment people have made. Settling in a place where I can see growth and bright spots all around me, fuels my energy to contribute.”

Russel serves on the Board of Directors for Grow L+A, the YMCA, and The Auburn Business Development Corporation. She’s also the co-campaign manager of One LA.

“In general, I care deeply about a connected and vibrant walkable community. I love architecture, both modern and historic, and love the urban environment that surrounds the buildings with its parks, bridges, courtyards, and landscapes,” said Russell, who also expresses her love for the arts, nature and animals, the environment, healthy living, and people. “I care about these causes, even if I’m not currently on a board that is focused on them.”

Commenting on her future designs, she hopes that LA will become an arts, culture and health, and wellness destination, anchored by Mill 5 and the Mill District.

“I’d also like to have my pilot’s license, an engineering degree, and a family.”

Travis Dow

Economic Development

Owner at Dow Media LLC

Travis Dow is the ultimate entrepreneur with multiple business ventures.

“What I do is really simple. I help local businesses grow and succeed,” said the LA area native.

In 2011, he started his first business, The Maine Home Show, and it has grown to become central Maine’s most well attended trade show.

“Exhibitors consider it to be one of the top three home shows in the State.”

In 2012, he launched MenusInLA.com, an online resource of eateries where menus can be viewed.

“We consistently see eight to ten thousand users per month looking for information on local restaurants.”

In 2014, Dow Media was formed. In addition to publishing Coupons in Maine, a local coupon magazine, the company assists companies with their marketing and promotions efforts.

“The best part of my job is all the people I meet and learning about the inner workings of their different businesses,” said Dow. “And then figuring out how to help them to be more successful.”

As an expert on the eating establishments in the area, where does Dow tend to eat?

“My list of places is just too big!” admits Dow. “We are so lucky to have such a great mix of restaurants. Some of the best pizza around is in the Twin Cities. We’ve got the mom-and-pop diners, great sandwich shops, phenomenal Asian cuisine, burger joints and sports bars, drive-ins and other summer spots and upscale casual options. Eating in LA never gets boring.”

Nicholas P. Benoit

Economic Development

Entrepreneur/Owner at Benoits Bakery & Pretentious Pie Co

For Nicholas P. Benoit, you might say that business is in his DNA.

“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, so owning a business was in my blood. I started my first business at age 17, Benoit’s Farm Stand,” said Benoit. Now 12 years later, it has transformed into many businesses and opportunities, expanding to bakeries, real estate, and to consulting.

“I love the challenges of each unique business. I don’t feel like it’s a job because I love what I do every day.”

“I left Lewiston at a young age to attend prep schools at Cardigan Mountain School and Cushing Academy, but Lewiston has always been my home. It just felt right to start a business where I knew many people and had the support of my family,” said Benoit, noting that the people here are “pretty awesome” and that there are some great local businesses. “Owning a local business, I support and buy local. Lewiston has some great restaurants and, being a foodie, I try and frequent many of them.”

In his free time, Benoit can be found out on the water, boating. He’s also an avid golfer but he admits that his real passion is his antique car collection.

He believes that in order for LA to grow, there needs to be more people and businesses coming to the area.

“Lewiston has a bad stigma but if people actually come and see it, Lewiston has changed for the better and continues to do so.”

Shanna Cox

Economic Development

Founder & Principal Consultant at Project Tipping Point

Shanna Cox helps bring about change.

“I am passionate about collaborative approaches to making lasting change in the area,” said Cox who has volunteered for numerous causes and as a community developer helped support the work of Lewiston Unites, the New Mainer Community Collaborative, the development of the Community Partnership for Protecting Children, and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. “Healthy Neighborhoods is my favorite example of a diverse group of people dedicating time to thinking through how housing improvements could move the needle for neighborhoods and for LA as a whole. I also love the efforts of Trinity Jubilee, Promise, Center for Wisdom’s Women, ArtWalk LA, and the arts.”

For many, Cox is best known for her efforts with the design and management of the TIP L/A Leadership Development Program, an effort working with local community leaders developing skills to lead collaboratively and accelerate change in LA. She also serves as president of Grow L+A, a non-profit dedicated to growing Lewiston and Auburn by promoting responsible development; development that is economically sound, sustainable, socially responsible, and supports a healthy community.

Her “can do” attitude is contagious as her influence reaches all sectors of the area.

“In a community with increased graduation rates, improved child outcomes, increased property values and a thriving downtown with cultural and retail options, I see myself supporting the expansion of the TIP L/A network, and integrating with other individuals in the community who are figuring out their own ways to contribute to a vibrant LA.”


Alli Nolan


BRANCHES Program Manager at Tree Street Youth

With solid roots and nourishment, trees grow branches and thrive. The analogy applies well to the work done by Alli Nolan.

“I am the BRANCHES Program Manager at Tree Street Youth. Through the BRANCHES (Becoming Responsible Adults ‘N Cultivating Higher Education Success) Program, I work with youth of all ages to guide students through the steps to exploring, discovering, and achieving their future goals,” said Nolan. “By offering homework help and tutoring, college prep for the seniors, and a variety of early college exploration and career readiness programming, we are working to increase the overall graduation, college acceptance, and college retention rates of first-generation students in LA.”

Nolan explains that her job is a wonderful mix between directly serving the vibrant kids who attend the youth center and doing bigger picture visioning for the direction of the program by evaluating programming and establishing partnerships with colleges, schools, and other organizations around the state.

“I also work with all of the deeply inspiring students at the Wayfinder School, an alternative residential school located in New Gloucester, Maine, where I help students develop their post-grad plans,” said Nolan. “Each day is so dynamic and different—and oftentimes just a little bit crazy —and it keeps me forever on my toes and continuously learning from our students and the rest of the staff at Tree Street Youth.”

Nolan graduated from Colby College in 2014 and moved to Lewiston to begin working at Tree Street.

“I have stayed here because of the wonderful friends and community.”

Jake Langlais


Principal at Lewiston Public Schools

Jake Langlais is set on making a difference for kids in Lewiston.

“Being a principal affords me the opportunity to work alongside highly capable professionals, students, parents, and the larger community,” said Langlais. “Each day I work on various aspects of educational leadership to support others in the teaching and learning process.”

“I got started in education at a young age with parents and a family that were not teachers by profession, but excellent teachers about life, and I spent many years as a therapeutic foster parent working with kids with behavioral needs,” said the Lewiston resident with two kids in the Lewiston school system and a wife who teaches at Montello Elementary School. “As my career has evolved I have worked at Lewiston Regional Technical Center, with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, and taught business and computer applications courses locally.”

While he’s currently the Principal at Lewiston Middle School, he will take hold of the reins as Principal of Lewiston High School in the fall.

“Some of the favorite parts of my career have been the relationships that have developed through the nature of the work we do with teaching and learning. We have a lot of amazing people in our community and I have been blessed to learn from them in so many ways.”

As for challenges that lie ahead, Langlais sees toxic stress and trauma in young kids and generational poverty as key issues.

“I believe the way we can overcome these challenges is through education.”

Heidi Bisson


Student Finance Advisor at Kaplan University

Heidi Bisson helps make dreams come true.

“As a Student Finance Advisor, I assist students with all aspects of the financial aid process. I meet with each student upon enrollment to review funding eligibility and assist with finding other sources of funding, if needed, said Bisson, who has worked at Kaplan University for ten years. “I work with my students throughout their programs to ensure they understand their funding options. I also assist soon to be graduates and past graduates with loan repayment options to ensure they understand how their lender can help them.”

Bisson made her own dream come true when she started work as the front desk receptionist at the university.

“I was able to take advantage of the education benefits offered to me and complete my degree. I moved into the Student Finance Office five years ago,” said Bisson. “It is a great feeling to see a student feel so happy to know they can afford to go back to school and make a better life for themselves and their family.”

It is no surprise that Bisson’s community involvement finds her teaching financial literacy through Junior Achievement.

“I have been a JA volunteer for four years and I am also a member of the Central Maine area board,” she explains. “I believe financial literacy is very important to the success of our children and it should start at a young age. JA provides this to many children who may not have access to it otherwise.”

Abby Dix


Teacher at Lewiston Public Schools

Abby Dix teaches second graders to read.

“The summer going into my sophomore year of college, I started working as a camp counselor at the Auburn Recreation Department and realized I wanted to be an educator. I then came home to student teach and I was hired right out of college,” said Dix. “The favorite part of my job is when I hear my students say is ‘Mrs. Dix, I can read!’ after telling me they can’t earlier in the year.”

While not only teaching 16 students how to read, Dix educates them in all primary subjects.

“I have a strong focus in literacy and I use my skill set to help the children learn to enjoy reading and writing.”
Dix loves spending her free time with her family, which includes her husband, a two and a half year old daughter, and an eight month old baby boy.

“We love going to the playground and to the pond at Bates College.”

Dix sees two major challenges for the LA area: poverty and closet intolerance.

“I have seen a huge shift in the economic standing of the population. I feel we can overcome this by continuing to bring in businesses which will bring in more jobs,” she reflects. “We say as a city we are very welcoming and diverse, but I often see a lot of the ‘us versus them’ mentality and it should not be like this at all. Our community was built on immigrants.”

Emerging Leaders

Jake Daniels

Emerging Leaders

Retail Wireless Consultant at U.S. Cellular

Jake Daniels found his niche in the wireless world.

“I was a bartender in a corporate restaurant until it abruptly closed in 2014. After being referred to U.S. Cellular, I was hired at the Auburn location and began my career there,” said the LA area native. “I quickly found my niche in sales, breaking four of the rookie records in my first quarter of employment.”

He says that one of the favorite parts of his career was being chosen for the Leadership Evolution Program, which he has successfully completed.

“I learned, and have been able to apply, many aspects of training such as coaching, communicating with impact, and delivering sales principles, to name a few. I use these principles most every day.”

Daniels welcomes the challenges of his work where there are opportunities to make connections with customers and share extensive knowledge about the products and services that will best enrich their lives.

“I am an integral part of a competitive, yet collaborative team-focused sales environment,” said Daniels. “I am proud to be the face of U.S. Cellular at LA Metro Chamber of Commerce events where I’m instrumental in bringing awareness to why being local is important to an organization.”

Daniels enjoys traveling, citing a quote from chef Anthony Bourdan, who notes that “life and travel leave marks on you.” Twenty four year old Daniels has visited a dozen states, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. “I enjoy seeing the diversity and cultural differences of each place and everything it has to offer.”

Matthew D. Shaw

Emerging Leaders

Director of Business & Process at Community Credit Union and
Front Desk Agent/Manager on Duty at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch

Whether he’s at a chamber of commerce event or a community fundraiser, Matt Shaw’s smile will brighten your day.

“Whether I volunteer at an event, participate in fundraising, or give back with advice, I find it engaging and rewarding to help others,” said Shaw, a native of Lewiston. “A strong and bright community is only one of the building blocks that will drive more and more people to the area. There are numerous non-profit agencies in the area that are actively and consistently working towards building a strong, vibrant community and I have always supported them.”

Shaw notes that he has been privileged to working with many of these organizations and he’s witnessed how valuable they are to the community. He adds, “They sure know how to stretch a dollar. It is remarkable in what they can do.”

Shaw earned a bachelor of science degree from Saint Joseph’s College where most of his elective courses were in marketing and business ethics. Upon graduating, he held various positions with Northeast Bank, Norway Savings Bank and, then, as Director of Campaign and Marketing for the local United Way.

“When Community Credit Union opened a position that combined my commitment and admiration to our community with my interest in relationship building and I became their Business Development Officer,” said Shaw.

As a member of the Social Responsibility Committee for the Maine Credit Union League, Shaw is especially proud of his efforts with the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger.

Julia Harper

Emerging Leaders

Coordinator at Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn

At the Good Food Council of LA, she works to eliminate food insecurity for those in need.

“My career has been a winding path of self-discovery that has led me to prioritize work that is increasingly more purposeful, personal boundary-pushing, and supports a healthy work and life balance,” said Harper.

She cites “two weird and wonderful years” where she made deep human connections, discovered unknown cultures, and did odd jobs in Americorps; one year in the National Civilian Conservation Corps in Denver and New Orleans, and one year in Maine with the REAL School, a service learning and experiential high school.

“I also have gratitude for my three years working on The Dempsey Challenge event which reconnected me to LA and helped me to understand this community’s incredible fabric, passion, and heart,” said Harper, who believes LA is at a crossroads.

“Resistance to change, specifically to changes in the urban environment, often strike me as a challenge. It’s a complex problem, but one avenue might be to somehow publicly recognize the contributions and hardships of the generations of workers that build these cities, while also recognizing that change and innovation are essential as our community has changed,” said Harper. “We need to experiment with techniques that have worked to revitalize, to bring better health, and to improve the quality of life in other similar communities.”

Terri Cook

Emerging Leaders

VP, Branch Administrator at Mechanics Savings Bank

Terri Cook has a keen interest in banking and the community.

“I worked my way up from a part-time teller to a customer service representative and then I was offered a branch manager position at Mechanics Savings Bank. From there, I have been fortunate to grow into the position I hold today,” said Cook. “Because of my experiences, I am the first one to say, ‘be nice to everyone you meet,” you never know what might come from each encounter.”

As for her community work, she said, “There is an opportunity to make an impact in the area and I can influence change. I know if I want to have a voice, I can have a voice.”

While she describes herself as “a bit of a home body,” Cook currently serves in a high-profile role as board chair of the United Way of Androscoggin County.
“There are so many agencies doing wonderful things in our community that it makes it difficult to pick just one to support. That is why I choose to dedicate time and efforts to the United Way,” notes Cook. “United Way serves as a catalyst for the area focusing on the areas of health, education, and financial stability. I believe these are the three building blocks of a strong community.”

As for looking at her future 10 years from now, she said that she is not big on thinking that far ahead.

“I prefer to make the most out of every single day right now.”


Zachary A. Pratt


Chef/Owner at Boba

Zachary A. Pratt admits that his job is cooking and running his business, but that’s not the highest priority.
“My job has many roles, but the most important item on my job description is making each and every customer to feel welcomed.”

“My career started at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center with Chef Danny Caron. From there, I worked with Gard Briggs at Turner Highlands,” said Pratt, who considers both of them mentors.

While his own restaurant specializes in the many flavors of Southeast Asia with a unique French twist, there are other eateries that he admires.

“Well, I must say it’s hard to choose favorite places to eat in the area. The ones that stand out to me are Fuel and DaVinci’s. It’s not just the food that makes them my favorite. It’s the business model that makes me enjoy these two destinations.”

What does the chef/owner do in his free time?

“I don’t think much about my free time outside my career because my passion is so deep for my job,” admits Pratt. “I do enjoy spending family time together with my wife, Keshia, and my four year old son, Maddax.”

He’s passionate about the work being done at the Good Shepherd Food Bank and the local Boys and Girls Club. In 10 years from now, he sees having three franchised locations of his company and having a house in Southeast Asia with his family.
“But honestly things can always change, so it’s hard to predict the future.”

Elizabeth Cyr


Owner & Stylist at Blush Beauty Boutique

Elizabeth Cyr does everything with style. After all, she’s a stylist.

“My career as a stylist started as salon apprentice in 2007. This is when I met my current business partner Ashley. She was my mentor while I was learning. The development of that relationship has been the most important in my career,” said Cyr. “My journey into business ownership started in 2010. Ashely and I began work on our business plan under the guidance of AVCOG (Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments) that year. In 2012, AVCOG funded our start up and we officially opened Blush Beauty Boutique in August that year.”

Cyr said that she spends around 40 hours a week “behind the chair” enjoying time with her clients and working as an artist and stylist. As a salon owner, she’s involved in marketing, social media, company image, merchandising, inventory and event management. She also manages the budget and business growth plan.
“I was born and raised in Auburn and moved to Lewiston with my husband in 2010,” said Cyr. “I knew that if I was going to open a business I was going to need the support of the people I knew and grew up with.”
“At this point, as a business owner, I love the potential in downtown Lewiston,” notes Cyr. “The community had been really supportive of the small businesses that have been renovating and opening in the old spaces. Every successful new place that opens inspires me to make my business even better.”

Ashley Alexander


Owner/Stylist at Blush Beauty Boutique

For Ashley Alexander, starting a boutique was a “no brainer.”

“I was born and raised in the LA area. Starting a business was a no brainer with all the exciting economic growth that is evolving in the community,” said Alexander, obviously very fond of this part of Maine. “The ongoing support from community and other local businesses has been more than we could have asked for.”

Sounding much like a Chamber of Commerce brochure, she says, “I’ve always loved the four seasons in Maine and wanted to stay and raise my family here. From apple picking in the fall, downhill skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, to enjoying the lakes and oceans in the summer, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

“With two children, I enjoy staying active, hiking and gardening in the summer. The family enjoys skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, and I love to watch and play sports with my girls,” she said. “Spending time with family and friends brings me joy.”

Every year, Alexander and her entire staff take part in the Dempsey Challenge, one of the area’s largest and most visible fundraisers. “I feel connected to this cause having lost my father to cancer.” For the first time this past year, she and her family decided to spend Thanksgiving serving at Hope Haven Gospel Mission. “It was our first time and such a loving and caring experience for all of us.”

She’s excited about LA’s future by saying, “We need to create an attractive place which has a wide variety of interests and cultures. This is key.”

Christine Laliberte


Owner/Cosmetologist at The Beauty Bar Salon & Spa

Born and raised in Lewiston, Christine Laliberte has created her own self-employment success.

“I was a young mom wanting to be home with my children so I opened my first business as a daycare provider. When my children were in school full time I decided to obtain my cosmetology license, since that was my true passion,” said Laliberte. “Over the last few years, my salon has grown from two employees to 19. I love building people up and watching them grow and succeed. It’s really what keeps me motivated.”
Laliberte prefers not to call her work a job. “It’s a passion. I never feel like I work.”

She always had strong support in her business venture. “Our staff are some of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met. The support we get from local clients is amazing. I’m truly so grateful for them.”

Away from her salon, she’s passionate about causes that help children, mental health, the homeless and animals. She’s proud to have helped raise funds for the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, Untold Strength, Safe Voice, and the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society.

In her free time, she loves to travel and going to the ocean. She spends her time involved with music, studying fashion, hair and makeup and she really enjoys cooking.

Her favorite eating spots, in no particular order, are Jasmine’s Café, Marché, Fuel, FishBones and Simone’s Hot Dogs.
And where would she like to see herself in 10 years. “Satisfied,” is her brief answer.

Health & Wellness

Katie Boss

Health & Wellness

Health Promotion Manager at Healthy Androscoggin

Katie Boss clearly embraces the area.

“I moved from Boston to Lewiston-Auburn for work, but it took only three months in this community to realize that I had landed in my new home. My husband and I started looking for our first house soon after I started my job, and we’ve been happily settled here ever since,” said Boss.

“When we first moved here, I was surprised by how quickly and easily my family was welcomed by so many different people in the community. I love that this is a city surrounded by a rich agricultural community, which allows us to enjoy the best of both worlds,” said Boss, who is responsible for Healthy Androscoggin’s lead poisoning prevention, nutrition and physical activity related grants, and staff.

“I am lucky enough to be very passionate about Healthy Androscoggin. This is a phenomenal group of people working hard to protect the health of residents across Androscoggin County, and contribute to the lively culture and community in the area. Public health is an essential field and one that we work hard to protect and promote.”
Boss said that while growing up in Bangor, she often heard negative stereotypes passed around about Lewiston-Auburn. “The reality is, of course, so different, and helping people overcome preconceived notions about LA is a challenge that we as a community can work toward together.”
Where does Boss see herself 10 years from now?
“Right where I am continuing the good work, enjoying my community and growing my family.”

Megan Skilling

Health & Wellness

Zumba Instructor at YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston

Megan Skilling is not your typical fitness instructor. She’s traveled a journey that many can identify with.

“I attended my first Zumba® class on April 25th, 2011. At 330 pounds, just even standing for an hour was hard, never mind dancing. But I kept going back,” said Skilling. “You see the difference for me was finding a family. Going to class gave me friends, something I lacked, and these friends kept me coming back. We would laugh and have fun. The working out? Well, that was just a bonus.”

A year after that first visit to the Zumba class, she became an instructor. After losing 40% of her original body weight, Skilling had surgery in 2013 to remove extra skin that was painful when working out.

“I haven’t done it on my own. I had my family, friends and God all backing me up. I still have more weight that I would like to lose but I tell myself that healthy knows NO size,” reflects Skilling.

“In my class, I encourage letting loose and smiling and being yourself. I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be. I live my life with purpose, it’s why I teach. I love dancing, moving, and losing myself in the music. I don’t care if you’re young, old, overweight, underweight, use weights, in a wheelchair, need a chair or have hair issues. You are part of my class and I won’t stop until I teach you how to move to the music and feel free.”

Tyler Tyburski

Health & Wellness

Lead Care Manager at Community Health Options

“Working in preventative health has been my main direction. Throughout my journey, the ability to grow and obtain additional skills so that I can provide preventative health services to more individuals has been extremely rewarding,” said Tyburski, noting that sports, physical activity, science, and health have always been keen interests.

At Community Health Options he serves as a nurse care manager in all aspects of population health, including preventative health, chronic condition management, complex health needs, behavioral health, and complex care management. Additionally, he’s responsible for the day-to-day operations of the wellness and disease management program. Aside from these duties, Tyburski has a greater vision of personal health in the area.

“Community initiatives promote health and wellness. By integrating these concepts into city projects, we could promote action. Examples could include bike lanes and more health-focused community events. Build Maine and Blue Zones Project are great examples of the potential benefits of smart city planning,” said Tyburski, who obtained his Associate’s degree in Nursing from the Maine College of Health Professions.

“We need support for refugee and immigrant integration. This could partly be addressed by business leaders reaching out to community leaders of underserved populations, inviting them to become engaged. It would also be very helpful to have education for the community regarding cultural differences.”
Tyburski believes that health can improve with more walkable downtown areas with storefronts and curbside eateries.

“The area between Cedar Street and Main Street bridges would be ideal for a concept of this sort.”

Erin Guay

Health & Wellness

Executive Director at Healthy Androscoggin

Erin Guay has a passion for public health.

“My job is to lead Healthy Androscoggin, a community health coalition. Essentially we identify the most pressing health needs of our community and work collaboratively with partners to address them. We also provide programming to help people live healthier lives, such as nutrition education, tobacco cessation classes and opportunities to safely dispose of medications,” said Guay.

Guay discovered the world of public health when she took a job on an arsenic study at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the state health department.

“I was fortunate to work with amazing mentors who introduced me to the field and encouraged me to get my master’s degree. I owe them so much,” she reflects. “My favorite parts of my career have been finding success while working as part of a supportive and driven team. It feels great to be look around the community and see ways that my colleagues and I have made a positive difference.”

What inspires Guay in LA Metro? “The people and the quirky assets of the community are what I enjoy most. People here are so often willing to step up and help someone out. They see an issue and they volunteer to do something about it,” she said. “I also think our community is such a wonderful size. It is big enough to have lots of things to do and places to eat, but small enough that you are surrounded by people you know who care.”

Local Government & Civic Leaders

Joseph J. Philippon

Local Government & Civic Leaders

Community Resource Officer at Lewiston Police Department

With a soft-spoken demeanor and engaging smile that lights up a room, it is easy to forget that Joe Philippon is a seasoned police officer who once worked patrol duty on the night shift.

“My interest in police work began during my senior year in high school after I had done a few ride a-longs with officers who were former students of my parents,” said Philippon. “I graduated from the University of Maine at Augusta with a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice and I now work on the Lewiston Police Department’s Community Resource Team.”
Philippon explained that this unit was created in 2010 to identify the needs of the community through information sharing and collaboration.

“I represent the department at community meetings such as the Androscoggin Community Collaborative, the Community Partnership for Protecting Children, Healthy Neighborhoods Planning Council, and the Lewiston- Auburn Alliance of Services to the Homeless,” said Philippon. “Since outreach is an important part of my job, I act as the liaison to our new Mainer community and host monthly meetings with the two mosques in Lewiston. I also serve as the co-chair for the New Mainer Community Collaborative and as a member of the city of Lewiston’s Immigrant and Refugee Planning Council.”

Philippon is passionate about confronting the negative perception many people continue to harbor about Lewiston.

“The perception is that we have a high crime rate,” admits Philippon. “In case you didn’t know, Lewiston ranks #37 in the state for crime rate.”

Adam R. Lee

Local Government & Civic Leaders

Attorney at Trafton, Matzen, Belleau & Frenette

“We presently face a moment, like the rest of the state, the country, and the world, where we can either escape inward and cling to an imagined nostalgic past or we can open ourselves to the infinite possibilities of our future,” said the Lewiston based lawyer. “I hope we choose the second path and resolve that we are willing to work with anyone and everyone who wants to see our world, our country, our state and, most especially, Auburn and Lewiston, improve.”

Lee offers kudos about the area quite freely.

“The first time I visited LA, it felt like home. LA is tough but caring, smart but not pretentious, hardworking, but capable of not taking itself too seriously,” said Lee. “We’re presently poised to do amazing things. I feel it.”

On the topic of doing great things, Lee sets some personal goals.

“My wife, Heidi McCarthy, and I are running a 5k in all 50 states before we’re 50 years old,” said Lee. “So that means lots of traveling and running.”

When not training for a 5k run, Lee has some favorite local spots for a brew and something to eat.

“I go to Gritty’s, where I’m a mug club member since 2009, Fuel, Marche, Thai Dish, Orchid, BearBones, Rolly’s, and many more that I am presently forgetting to mention.”

In his spare time, he likes to write and listen to music and he claims that he is “in far too many fantasy football leagues.”

Jennifer M. Hogan

Local Government & Civic Leaders

President/CEO at Community Credit Union

Jennifer Hogan has certainly worked her way up the career ladder.

“I was working at the local radio station when I was approached at a Chamber breakfast about applying for the marketing position at Community Credit Union. A few weeks later, I started working for the credit union as the marketing and training coordinator,” said Hogan, whose family settled in Lisbon Falls while her father was stationed in Brunswick during his Navy career.

“I had a passion for this work and knew I wanted to make a career out of it. Throughout my 10 years, I have taken on a variety of functions and positions within the credit union including Marketing and Business Director, Executive Vice President and now President/CEO,” said Hogan.

Hogan credits radio station owner, Dick Gleason, for giving her advice early in her career.

“Dick said to me ‘We are all about being local. If you’re going to work for me then you’re going to be involved in the community. You can do whatever you want but you need to commit to something,’” remembers Hogan. “I committed and I never looked back.”

Some 15 years later, Hogan heeds that advice like it was said to her yesterday.

“Now those words are echoed from my mouth to managers and employees within the credit union. I love this community and have committed myself to working in Lewiston, living in Turner and playing throughout all of the LA Metro area.”

Heidi Sawyer

Local Government & Civic Leaders

Manager, Market Engagement at Manpower Maine

It is the “spirit” in the LA Metro area that continues to inspire Heidi Sawyer today.

“I know it sounds cheeky, but the people and businesses in this community have a ‘get it done, never say die attitude,’ said the manager of Market Engagement for Manpower Maine. “The people in this community are committed to making a difference, to making a future that is bright for anyone willing to roll up their sleeves.”

In her day job, Sawyer engages both employers and job seekers throughout Maine using a variety of mediums. Social media is a key element of that work and she’s extended its use to her community involvement.

“I started a Facebook group called Lewiston Rocks about two years ago. It is a community group designed to help people in our city get to know each other and for community members to talk about local issues and build relationships with each other,” said Sawyer, who asks participants to be kind in their postings on the page. “In the world of social media it is easy to throw out opinions or comments without any concern about who you might be hurting. I wanted a space that brought people together to discuss important topics in a manner that will help people with varying opinions.”

Sawyer recently started a video series on Facebook called #LewistonLive where she interviews a Lewiston resident about life in the area while broadcasting it on a live video feed.

Local Heroes

Megan Guynes

Local Heroes

Program Director at Tree Street Youth

On any given day, you’ll find Megan Guynes making a difference in the lives of area youth.

“I was a year out of college when I began my journey with Tree Street. I was hired as the Volunteer Coordinator and later became the Enrichment Coordinator. Now I am the Program Director for our afterschool and summer program, serving about 120 to 150 kids from kindergarten to grade 12,” said Guynes. “I often describe Tree Street as a place where you fall in love by chance but you stay in love by choice. The energy, diversity, and sincerity of the youth and all those involved have an impact on you. I love that it is an environment where everyone is constantly learning, growing, and rising to greatness.

In her free time outside of work, you’ll find Guynes singing, hanging out with friends, being silly, or going to church where she sings in the choir and is a Praise and Worship Youth Leader.

“I spend my Monday nights at Gospelaires, the Bates Gospel choir, a group I have been involved with since attending Bates,” said Guynes. “You’ll also find me at the theater as an actress or an enthusiastic audience member. My most recent role was that of Tituba in The Crucible, performed at Community Little Theater. Outside of this, I love exploring the world. You may spot me in Boston, Portland, or on other random adventures like driving back to California for a home visit.”

Nate Libby

Local Heroes

Senator at Maine State Senate

As a State Senator and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader, Lewiston resident Nate Libby enacts public policy, negotiates the state’s two year, $7 billion budget, advocates for constituents who need services, and helps manage the day-to-day operations and professional staff of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

As a consultant, he works with businesses, nonprofits, and local governments to make projects happen, whether that’s raising money, constructing a building, or planning a project or program.

“After I graduated from Bates College, I went to work on state and federal political campaigns in Maine. There, I began meeting people involved in all manner of business in government,” said the Norridgewock, Maine native. “The old adage, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ started to make sense to me.”

He admits that nearly every professional opportunity that has come his way resulted from a personal connection of some kind, particularly in Lewiston.

Community service is at the forefront for Libby, having served on the board of directors for area Project Head and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council.

“I currently serve as the chair of Lewiston’s Universally Accessible Playground Committee, where we are charged with building a first-in-Maine public playground accessible to children and adults of all physical and cognitive ability levels,” said Libby.

Libby reflects that growing household incomes is the biggest challenge that concerns him in the political arena.
“Enacting public policies that support independent living, higher wages, lower health care costs, and opportunities for higher education are all a part of the solution.”

Jenna Rae Brown

Local Heroes

General Manager at Gritty McDuff’s Brewing Company

There’s always lots brewing with Jenna Rae Brown.

As General Manager of Gritty McDuff’s Brewing Company you might find her scheduling front of house shifts, fundraisers called Community Pint Nights, ordering supplies and products, planning functions with customers, and doing a variety of customer service tasks.

“I started in the restaurant industry as a server to pay for college. My favorite moments of my career are the direct result of the people I have met and befriended along the way,” said Brown. “I grew up in Auburn and when we started a family, we moved back to this area.”

“I enjoy reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people. There are many energetic, positive people working hard to make this community a better place to live,” said Brown. “I like that.”

Her time away from work finds her volunteering.

“I have been fortunate to volunteer at Park Avenue Elementary School, where all three of my daughters attend school. Working in the classroom with children has been an eye-opening and truly satisfying experience,” said Brown, who welcomes the experience. “My respect for teachers continues to grow.”

Brown is passionate about the work being done at Tree Street Youth and the Dempsey Center, both of which she calls staples of the community. She comments that both organizations have excellent staff who strive to make a difference in people’s lives daily.

Looking ahead, she would like to return to college, pursue nursing, and one day become a midwife.

Sasha Lee Vurnakes

Local Heroes

Owner at Sasha Lee’s Romance Boutique

Sasha helps women find their inner and outer beauty.

“Shortly after opening the boutique I realized that regardless of your own appearance we all have hang ups about our physical self and we are very critical when we’re in minimal clothing such as lingerie. This is where the idea for Sasha Lee’s Annual Lingerie Fashion Show came from. I wanted to show my community that beauty and sex appeal doesn’t come in just one standard form. I wanted to show that attraction comes in different ways and we are all equally worthy and alluring,” said the entrepreneur. “I developed the idea of presenting Sasha Lee’s lingerie on the runway but instead of using hired professional models I would use everyday customers. After all, that is who I wanted to speak to.”

She explains that she put out a call for volunteers of all sizes, ages, and shapes to be models. The response was overwhelming with literally hundreds of volunteers. For Vurnakes, the response confirmed that the community was eager to participate in something that was, in her opinion, transformational.

“For several months, I worked with these volunteers, alongside by team of experts, helping them to get comfortable with the idea of being on stage in front of a crowd. It’s quite incredible to see the models blossom with confidence and self-acceptance. It’s absolutely my favorite part of the process.”

After hours at the boutique, Vurnakes offers Burlesque Chair Dancing and Boudoir Portrait Sessions, bringing even more transformational events to the area.


Amanda M. Fitts


Owner at Sapphire Nightclub & Event Center

Amanda M. Fitts is a natural helper.

“I’ve worked in health care for 11 years and I love helping others so being a mental health rehabilitation technician is a perfect job for me,” said Fitts, who also helps run the Sapphire Night Club and Event Center. “Having this venue allows me to donate to folks who are truly needy.”

She explains that the event center has hosted about 10 fundraising benefits for people who have lost loved ones and for people battling cancer.

“We have held two mental health dances and we are doing a prom soon,” said Fitts. “We are able to donate quite a bit because we have a caring team at Sapphire that are always there to help me.”

She said that the event center will be doing something for Earth Day to help clean up the community and environment, as well.

Personally speaking, she said that her fiancé is her biggest hero and she feels that she has become a better person because of him. She moved from Sidney, Maine to Lewiston to be with him and his two daughters. She proudly said that she has three daughters for her own.

She’s humble about the recognition she’s received for her community work.

“I don’t look for the attention, but it feels so amazing to be recognized. This truly means the world to me,” said Cloutier. “If I could open a few more businesses I could help people even more than I do now.”

Matthew M. Poulin


Consumer Retail Lender at Mechanics Savings Bank

Matthew M. Poulin is a banking lender who likes to lend a helping hand in his community.

“Some of my favorite parts of my career consist of establishing and maintaining relationships with individual and business customers, while ensuring a great customer experience along with working with clients to identify their financial goals and to find ways of reaching those goals,” said Poulin.

As for the community work, Poulin is equally committed.

“I am very passionate about any cause in relation to cancer research because I have had family members with cancer and it is very painful to watch. I also have the utmost passion for those who are dedicating their time to help those with cancer,” said Poulin, who resides in Lewiston.

“I think one of the biggest challenges we are faced with in the community is the separation. I think we are divided as a community and I strongly feel that it plays a role economically and socially. I believe we need to continue to do a better job of uniting the community with events and opportunities to bring us all together. I feel we need to spend a lot more time bringing together the diversities of our community because once we have gained faith and trust in our community, it will all come together,” said the banker. “Numbers are numbers and budgets are budgets, but the great people of our community help us grow and we will be much stronger together rather than separated.”

Karen Staples


Maine Staff Assistant at the Office of Congressman Bruce Poliquin

In her day job, Karen Staples helps sort out issues for the constituents of Maine Congressman, Bruce Poliquin.

“I represent the congressman from our office in Lewiston,” said Staples. “I assist constituents with issues that arise involving social security, immigration, veteran affairs, taxes, or environmental problems. I listen to citizen concerns.”

Her drive to helping others has a far reach through her work with the Lewiston Elks Lodge #371 where she and her husband immerse themselves in community efforts.

“I have been able to spearhead various projects through the Lodge in the past seven years. Through the Dictionary Project, we distributed over 700 dictionaries in area schools specifically for 3rd graders. I’ve obtained grants to provide a day at the movies for Tree Street Youth’s summer program and to fill their closet with back-to-school supplies,” said Staples. “I organized the grant process for the Lewiston Police Department’s Movie Night Out and assisted them this summer with popcorn for the kids. I organized the placement of flag poles at the Auburn Hospice House and the Lewiston Armory on Central Avenue in honor of our veterans.”

If that wasn’t enough, Staples cited her involvement in other efforts that involved geocaching and camping for local Boy Scouts, backpacks filled with personal items for homeless veterans, and drug awareness programs designed to encourage kids to “Just Say No to Drugs.”

“I’m always seeking out where I can give back to local organizations and groups especially those that are for the youth and our veterans.”

Melanie LaMore Gagnon


Director of Shelter Services at Safe Voices

Melanie LeMore Gagnon offers support and hope for those who lose their voices.

As director of shelter services in the area, she is committed to ensuring that victims of domestic violence have a safe place to go so survivors and their children can live in a home, safe and free from violence. On any given day, you can find her writing various grant applications and reports, overseeing programs and staff, overseeing the maintenance of the shelter building, and supporting and empowering survivors residing in the shelter.

“I began my career in the social service field after graduating from Clark University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I then received my master’s degree in Social Work from Boston College in 2008,” said LeMore Gagnon. “For the past 14 years, I’ve worked with children, youth, and families of our local community.”

While faced with the realities of human suffering every day in her work, she said the weight of that is enormous. However, she sees that the reward of this kind of work far outweighs the difficult days.

“I recognize that there is something incredibly humbling about sharing space with someone who has experienced something horrific and being a small piece of the puzzle to their overall journey,” she reflects. “Being part of a collective effort to improve the lives of others in our community and empowering individuals to take back control of their own lives is truly an honor and some of the most inspiring work I’ve done in my career.”

View the 2017 LA Metro Magazine 40 Under 40 Edition

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