When Jody Jones, the executive director of the Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association, and Steve Patton, executive director of the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, sat down together in 2014, they imagined a new organization that would be broad and deep enough to protect Midcoast Maine’s vital lands and waters on a scale that would have meaningful impact. Fast forward to 2020, which finds Midcoast Conservancy — now the product of three land trusts, DLWA and a nature center preserve — thriving and making a difference. Jones took the helm at Midcoast Conservancy’s inception and has guided it expertly for nearly five years.
Jones recently announced her retirement, which will take effect on July 31. Her news has been met with sadness, but also with immense gratitude and accolades for what her leadership has meant to Midcoast Conservancy’s success. Founding Board President Susan Russell said, "As board chair, I had the great privilege of working closely with Jody from the beginning of Midcoast Conservancy. She navigated the merging of the founding organizations into one very potent conservation enterprise with sensitivity and respect for their strong cultures and histories. Her talent for creating positive partnerships, and encouragement of staff and board alike to aspire to a new conservation vision, fueled Midcoast Conservancy's remarkable growth and success over the past 4 1/2 years. She'll be a hard act to follow!"
Beloved by staff for her collaborative, affirming and trusting leadership style, Jones has indeed set a high bar for her successor. Anna Fiedler, Director of Land Conservation, has been with Midcoast Conservancy from the start. Of Jones, she says, "Jody has been a strong voice and tireless advocate for the benefits this work provides to all, especially the wildlife both on land and in the water."
During Jones’ tenure, Midcoast Conservancy has grown from 6,500 acres to over 13,000, including the 1,000 acre Hidden Valley preserve in Jefferson. Water quality efforts on Damariscotta Lake have continued to keep invasive Hydrilla at bay and provided erosion control opportunities for shore property owners through grant-funded project assistance. The Sheepscot River has seen two major projects restore fish passage through the Head Tide and Coopers Mills dams. Community programming designed to get kids and families outside has flourished; trailers of fat tire bikes, cross country skis and stand-up paddleboards traverse the organization’s service area to provide recreational opportunities on communities’ local preserves and trail networks.
Jones’ career has been defined by her strong desire to create a cleaner, healthier world for all to enjoy. A self-described “fresh water girl”, she has a Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology and had a long career as an Ecologist at Maine Audubon before taking the helm at DLWA. Buck O’Herin, Midcoast Conservancy’s Board President, says, “Jody's passion for Maine’s environment spans decades; we are deeply appreciative and are honored to have worked with her to make Maine a better place.”
Jones looks forward to an active retirement, running the roads of Arrowsic, visiting her two adult daughters in Bar Harbor and Baltimore, spending more time with her husband, Jack Witham, and ensuring that she leaves no Maine beer untasted. A search committee has been formed to begin the process of identifying a new permanent Executive Director. An interim director will be named in the next few weeks.