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Meet The Councilors


meet the councilors

2024 Council Members



Blaine Flanders, Council Chair and President, is the Operations Manager, Community Impact at United Way of Southern Maine and lives in Auburn. Blaine is an Army Veteran with deployment experience in East Africa. In the military, she focused her efforts on civil affairs and humanitarian assistance, through which she supported foreign civil-military operations, was a subject matter expert in East African culture and politics, and worked to better position international U.S. partnerships as a liaison. She has over ten years of experience in the hospitality and food service industry at different bars, restaurants, and catering groups across New England. Most recently, Blaine was the General Manager at Sonder & Dramand opened the restaurant bon Vivant, both in Downtown Lewiston. bon Vivant’s opening mission was to marry food from Central & Mid-Coast Maine onto the plate, and continue to source the majority of food locally. Blaine is passionate about local food, living a healthy lifestyle, public policy, and her horse Gandolf. She believes in the power of local and sustainable food systems, and wants to continue advocating for and building relationships on good, local food for the community.


Kirsten WalterKirsten Walter, Council Treasurer, began her food systems work in Lewiston, Maine, by founding Lots to Gardens in 1999 and now serves as director of the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.  The Nutrition Center serves as a hub for healthy food initiatives in Lewiston-Auburn and beyond. Kirsten is involved in several regional and state-wide efforts connected to food systems in Maine. She is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in Community Studies, and lives in North Yarmouth.




Camille Parish, Council Secretary, is retired from the Environmental Studies Program at Bates College, where she was involved with the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) classes at Bates and within the ES curriculum. She also oversaw the internship program for ES majors. She holds a Master’s in Environmental Science from Rutgers University. Camille lives in Auburn and has a long history of involvement with Lots to Gardens and Good Food for Lewiston-Auburn, including assisting with the Community Food Assessment.




Kyra Bleicher is a 2019 Bates College graduate who has served as a team-member at Wild Mountain Cooperative Farm in Greene, Maine since graduation. She worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center for two years (2019-2021), where she helped improve systems and offered direct service at the Community Gardens and the Food Pantry. During her engagement in both places, Kyra deepened interest in projects seeking to build just local food systems and efforts to grow equitable rural land access. She is currently working as a direct-service AmeriCorps Member with Cooking Matters and the Good Shepherd Food Bank. In addition, Kyra is a student and aspiring teacher of life sciences, and she is a passionate fiddle player and an avid French speaker. She connected with local beekeepers and bee-researchers as part of an undergraduate thesis project, and she currently tends to honeybee hives at a local farm.


Katie Collins moved to Lewiston in 2022 and has already fallen in love with the community; in particular the collaborative energy for revitalization in the city. A Maine resident since 2007, Katie has worked primarily in the social service realm: coordinating programs for children and young adults with intellectual disabilities with PSL/STRIVE, as a case manager for young people experiencing chronic homelessness with the Preble Street Teen Center, and as a support staff in several residences for young people with dual diagnoses at Day One.  Along with a deep personal interest in using food as medicine and recognizing how a lack of access to healthy food can be a direct threat to ongoing emotional and physical stability, Katie has integrated education of nutrition, shopping for healthy food on a budget, cooking, and growing food into her work with young people. Katie is currently working at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center as the Youth Engagement Coordinator where she collaborates on programs focused on leadership development, community integration, cooking and gardening education for young people who live in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Outside of work, Katie loves exploring different corners in Maine, sampling delicious food, and tries to be in nature as much as possible: hiking, skiing, swimming, star gazing, or, her favorite activity, resting.



DeevesSuzannah Deeves graduated from the University of New England in 2020 with a Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH). She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine-Orono in 2015. She is currently a health promotion coordinator at Healthy Androscoggin. She oversees the Let’s Go! program that focuses on healthy eating and active living in Androscoggin county. Prior to her work with Healthy Androscoggin, Suzannah oversaw block grant funds for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. She has been passionate about nutrition and physical education since a young age. Suzannah lives in New Gloucester with her fiancée, son and dog. Suzannah enjoys hiking, running, watching sports, trying new foods, walking with the dog, visiting beaches and traveling as much as possible.




Megan Gagne is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Good Shepherd Food Bank. She is responsible for supporting the execution of the communications strategy and marketing plans for the Food Bank. She develops website content, manages social media, assists with media outreach, and leads story collection strategy for the Food Bank. She has a strong background in digital marketing, social media listening, storytelling and driving online customer engagement through social platforms. She moved to Augusta, Maine, in 2015 and started working for Marshall Communications as an account coordinator and then was promoted to account executive with many travel and tourism clients, as well as nonprofit clients, higher education and healthcare industries. Prior to Marshall Communications, Crowder held nonprofit healthcare and sport marketing roles. Crowder received a B.S. in public relations and a double minor in English and writing from Northern Michigan University. Crowder was on the Northern Michigan University Varsity Swim and Dive Team, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and a member of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). She lives in Sidney, Maine, and is a swim coach for the KVYMCA Stingrays and volunteers at the Augusta Food Bank. In her free time she enjoys reading, hiking, fishing and spending time with her fiancé, dog and cat.



Misty Edgecomb has been a lifelong Maine resident growing up in Auburn and the surrounding areas. She is a graduate from Leavitt Area High School and Central Maine Community College, and has made a home with her family in Auburn. Misty has been a small business owner since 2007. ME Massage Therapy is located in Lewiston and is a growing medical massage clinic. Misty is also the founder of Thoughtful Giving, a tech company still in the startup phase. Misty is Chair of the Auburn Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and has been since 2020. Her goal for the Auburn parks is that they all have some edible aspect in them. Misty is a part of the work group organizing the 14 acre community food forest project in Auburn, and is part of the work group organizing the re-opening of the public beach in Auburn. Misty views community involvement as being as important as running her two businesses and lives by the rule that we all have a duty to make the community we live in a better place.



Omar Hassan works as the Cooperative Marketing and Development Assistant with the Cooperative Development Institute in the Cooperative Food Systems program. Born in Somalia and raised in Kenya, Omar speaks Maay Maay, Af Maha, and English. He provides translation and interpretation support to Somali farmers throughout New England. He works with farmers and community members to develop democratic businesses, assisting them in developing cooperatives, and supporting them as they access local markets. He works closely with New Roots Cooperative Farm, an operation owned by Somali Bantu farmers in Lewiston, Maine, the first New American-owned cooperative farm in Maine. He is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Maine where he is pursuing a degree in Social and Behavioral Science with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems. He lives with his wife and two children, Isra and Fithi in Lewiston, Maine. 



Emma Lorusso is the Project Director at the Androscoggin Soil and Water Conservation District in Lewiston. Emma received a B.S. in Natural Resources in 2012.  She was the Naturalist at the James L Goodwin Conservation Education Center, located on the Goodwin State Forest in Connecticut for three years, where she led workshops and walks on forestry, wildlife and general conservation education.  During that time she also helped to start the Center’s Master Naturalist Program, where she served as Program Coordinator. The program has continued to be successful across the state, training more and more volunteers every year.  She fought wildland fires out west and taught English in China before returning to New England.  She moved to Maine in 2018 and worked as a Preschool Teacher at Nature Based Preschool Mayberry Hill in Casco, where she used the surrounding forest and gardens as her classroom.  She also has worked on farms, in gardens, at farmers markets, and in soup kitchens; always motivated to connect the public with where their food comes from. She has been teaching outdoor education both formally and informally for almost ten years and is working towards developing a dynamic schedule of educational events and workshops for the community of Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties. In her free time she enjoys kayaking, gardening and foraging for wild mushrooms.



Jeff Newell grew up in Auburn and attended Edward Little High School. He worked at Hannaford for 43 years working his way up from a stock clerk to Store Manager. Jeff managed stores in Lewiston, Topsham, Yarmouth and Brunswick. The last five years of his career Jeff worked in the corporate office in the Retail Communications department.  Jeff retired in 2015 and in 2016 became a Master Gardener through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and has been an active volunteer with the program. Jeff volunteers with Durham Community School garden working with the 7th and 8th grade classes in the Jobs for Maine Graduates program. He is also involved with the Androscoggin Gleaners. The Gleaners work with local farms in establishing a Gleaning program. In 2018 the group gleaned over 7800 pounds of fresh produce and delivered to St Mary’s Nutrition Center and 3 low-income housing units in Lewiston.  Jeff believes in giving back to the community and helping the less fortunate become contributing members of the community. Providing education and healthy meal options will assist members in this goal.



Kate Webber is an educator at the Maine State Museum, where she works with teachers and students to share Maine’s history and natural history. She specializes in making ideas interesting and accessible to people. She holds a Master’s in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, with a focus on public programming and outreach. Kate grew up in a farming family in Central New York, and continued her interest in farming as a WWOOF volunteer in Scotland. She fell in love with the Lewiston/Auburn community while attending Bates College. After graduation, Kate spent two years living on Swan’s Island through the Island Institute’s fellowship program, where she worked with the local historical society, library, and school. Her work with the Maine Humanities Council and Museum L-A have broadened her appreciation for Maine’s rich past, present, and future. In their spare time, Kate and her husband now co-run Lewiston’s live storytelling event, The Corner. They live in Sabattus and have a failing but well-loved garden and more animals than they can handle (three, not counting the mice).






Julia Harper (she/her) has served as the Coordinator for GFCLA since 2014. She also most recently worked in land conservation as Associate Director for Androscoggin Land Trust. She has work experience from a number of locally-based food and beverage production and retail operations such as Valley View Farm and Baxter Brewing Co.  Julia also serves as a volunteer in several community-based efforts, including on the board of the RAISE-Op Housing Cooperative and the Lewiston Farmers’ Market. She holds a BA from the University of Maine. Julia lives and gardens in downtown Lewiston with her partner, baby, and neighbors.



eric fleichmannEric Fleischmann (he/they), Assistant Coordinator at GFCLA, is a 2023 Bates graduate working primarily in the politico-economic tradition of mutualism while applying a background in philosophy and anthropology to helping build the solidarity economy in unnceded Wabanaki territory. He has worked with numerous labor organizations—such as the Bates Educators and Staff Organization, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, and the Industrial Workers of the World—and “community economy” focused groups—such as the Cooperative Development Institute, Hour Exchange Portland, and Land In Common. He is also Information Booth Coordinator at the Lewiston Farmers’ Market and a resident at Wild Mountain Cooperative.