About 
 

Maine Challenge & Host Betsy Sweet

Launched during the pandemic in 2020, Maine Challenge originated as a way to create dialogue about life in Maine and issues that matter to Mainers. In late 2020, Betsy Sweet joined as the regular host, bringing her vast knowledge of Maine, huge network of friends and acquaintances, and her warm and friendly interviewing style.

Meet the Board
Nigel Calder, President

Nigel is an internationally-known marine technical writer and educator. He is best known for his Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, now in its 4th edition, and his Marine Diesel Engines, in its 3rd edition.  In addition to hundreds of magazine articles, he has also authored a ‘Cruising Guide to the Northwest Caribbean’, ‘Cuba: A Cruising Guide’, ‘Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook’ and ‘How to Read a Nautical Chart’. He recently released a memoir of his family’s first long cruise titled ‘Shakedown Cruise’. Nigel and his wife Terrie have sailed in the North Sea, the Atlantic as far north as the Faroe Islands and as far south as Portugal, the U.S. east coast, the Bahamas and extensively in the Caribbean, with Pippin (now aged 35) and Paul (34) augmenting the crew along the way.  Nigel was the technical director of a multi-year European Union funded R&D project to explore the potential of automotive hybrid technologies to improve the energy efficiency of recreational boating, and the lead developer of an award-winning advanced marine generator system. He has been a decades-long environmental activist, including a stint as President of the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, and advocate for progressive causes, including a stint as President of Lincoln County Indivisible. Nigel has a B.A. in Philosophy from Exeter University in the UK and an M.Sc in Operations Research. He was a founding member and lead organizer of the Maine Challenge team.

Mike Herz, VP

A research scientist and environmental activist for more than 40 years, Mike was an associate professor in residence at the University of California at San Francisco & has published numerous books and papers on the effects of toxics on the brain and behavior. He was Executive Vice President of the Oceanic Society and co-founded and directed its San Francisco chapter. He was a member of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission following the Exxon Valdez oil spill and has served on numerous technical review and advisory committees for the National Research Council, Department of Interior and State of California. He is a past-President of the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, a Maine land trust that also protects endangered Atlantic salmon. He was a founding board member of Maine Rivers and Maine Challenge Productions. He was a trustee of the Putney School and former commodore of the Singlehanded Sailing Society. He is a current board member of the Conservation Law Foundation, Defend our Health and Friends of the Earth, U.S (where he twice served as board chair). Mike received a B.A. from Reed College, a Master’s degree from San Francisco State University, a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and was a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. His obsession with boats and water has led to his sailing more than 20,000 miles along much of the west and east coasts of North America, off Europe, the Indian Ocean, Adriatic Sea, off Australia and singlehanded to Kauai from California.

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William Hygh, Treasurer

Bio coming soon

Bill Creighton

Bill was born and raised in the Boston area (Cambridge and Manchester-by-the-Sea, with mother and father respectively), summered in Deer Isle and Vinalhaven until age18, and then moved to Deer Isle to become a boat builder. He was sidetracked by the newly emerging field of Emergency Medical Service and the fire service. He worked for eleven years as an EMT in Deer Isle and Bangor, before attending UMO to earn a degree in nursing. Bill worked in the ER in Bangor for seven years, and as a visiting nurse in Hancock County for two. He moved to South Bristol and started a Sea Tow franchise which he ran for ten years. He has worked as an electrician, plumber, heavy equipment operator, truck driver, carpenter, and boat builder while helping to raise two daughters. He has always had a strong commitment to social justice, serving on multiple social change boards (for example, Maine Initiatives, United for a Fair Economy, Oceans Wide), including as Board Chair. He is the recipient of the proceeds from a variety of family Trusts which he donates to a number of causes (including Maine Challenge) “in hopes of both healing the harm done by the extractive capitalist economic model from whence it comes, and also shifting the paradigm to something that is less fear-based”. Bill lives in Freeport with his partner Wendy and Nina the cat.

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Barbara Burt, co-chair

Barbara Burt combines her interest and experience in communications with her passion for a just and equitable society within a healthy environment. Leadership roles have included managing the national election reform program at Common Cause in Washington, D.C.; directing the online communications portion of Chellie Pingree’s first campaign for Congress in 2008; facilitating the establishment and growth of Newcastle’s Frances Perkins Center as its first executive director; helping small education nonprofit organizations across the country sharpen their communication strategies as the senior director of communications at the Policy Innovators in Education Network; and founder and workshop leader of From Memories to Memoir. Barbara has also run countywide campaigns for the Lincoln County Democratic Committee. She is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and the Transformative Language Arts Network and is a board member of the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) and MECEP Action.

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Leigh Hallett, co-chair

Leigh has spent most of the last decade of her career working in agriculture and natural resources, including several years as director of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets and as Director of Agricultural Resource Development for the Maine Bureau of Agriculture. Between work and personal interests, she has devoted considerable time to exploring northern and Downeast Maine and other rural parts of the state. One of her longtime interests is mitigating the impact of development on Maine’s natural resources, work she continues now as director of Avian Haven, one of New England’s largest wild bird rehabilitation facilities. Leigh graduated from the American University in Washington D.C. and went on to grad school at Boston University, studying political science and religious fundamentalism. She continued this work and studies in semitic languages at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After returning to Maine, she taught history and languages for a decade before moving into nonprofit work. She joined the Maine Challenge team in early 2022.

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Betsy Sweet, Host

Betsy was a pioneer in women’s advocacy in Maine as Director of the Maine Women's Lobby and the Maine Commission for Women under two Governors in the 1980s. She did the research that led to, and then helped write, Maine’s first Clean Election law and the first Family Medical Leave Act in the country. Betsy has helped found numerous progressive coalitions over the years, knowing that we are smarter together than we are alone.  She has run numerous state level legislative races and organized referendum campaigns. She has worked on every state budget for the last 35 years to insure funding for crucial services for Maine people. In 1994 Betsy started her successful consulting business, Moose Ridge Associates, which has promoted state legislation supporting the interests of women, elderly, people with disabilities, victims of abuse and discrimination, and the environment. She established her now thriving counseling/coaching business “SweetSpirit” in 2009. More recently she was a candidate in the Democratic Primary for Governor and came in 3rd out of 7 candidates, and a candidate in the 2020 Democratic Senate primary.