By Patrick Strauch, MFPC Executive Director
The Abby Holman Public Service Award is an annual award given by the Maine Forest Products Council to an individual (or individuals) in recognition of outstanding service on behalf of Maine’s forest products industry. (See previous winners.)
The criterion for this award is simple. The recipients must demonstrate a level of passion, loyalty, and dedication to Maine’s forest products industry, to good government, and a robust economy much the same way that our former Executive Director and friend Abigail “Abby” Holman did.
Abby was born in Lewiston, Maine. As a young adult she became a registered Maine guide, and graduated from the University of Maine Law School in 1991. Abby began her legal career as a law clerk to Governor John McKernan, and quickly became a valuable member of his staff and eventually became his legislative director. Abby spent her time off as an assistant district attorney in the Bath District Court. Soon, she spent a brief, but highly successful role as press secretary for Olympia Snowe in her first run for the United States Senate.
Abby’s legal career then continued with work at Pierce Atwood Law Firm focused on environmental practice areas. Abby’s work, as counsel to the Maine Forest Products Council soon led her to serve in the capacity of Executive Director. Her love of Maine and our natural resources showed in her work, and it was here that Abby built a reputation as being Maine’s most fierce defender of traditional natural resource industries. She helped lead the industry to many victories including the defeat of two statewide anti-forestry referenda. Abby lived her life consistent with her beliefs and eventually bought a farm and large woodlot, which she actively managed. After her time at the Council, Abby ran for the Maine House of Representatives, where she served until her tragic death in a charity skiing event on April 7, 2007.
The Council spent some time last year recognizing the contributions made by this individual through a career dedicated to the industry when we gave him the Nutting Award.
But were bringing him back to the podium this year in recognition of his leadership role in the past two years on an important project known as the Forest Opportunity Roadmap.
In the summer of 2017 Steve, Yellow Light Breen, president and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation, and Charlotte Mace, then executive director of Biobased Maine, and I were summoned to a meeting at the Bangor international airport with Senator King. We were there to talk about mill closures, lost markets, unemployed loggers and a general uneasiness about just how bad can the economy get?
It was a time of great concern, but we had set the groundwork for a collaborative effort to analyze the situation we were in and to think proactively about what needed to be done. The Forest Opportunity Roadmap (FOR/Maine) was built with eight committees and an overall Executive Committee. Who could manage all of this and keep the egos at bay?
Steve Schley agreed to serve as the chairman of the group as everyone recognized his integrity and focus on the core mission for the project.
His passion for this bigpublic works-type exercise was evident along with his dedication to the cause (he has shoes made from wood fiber). His belief in the need for a functioning government that needed to hear our plans, and the need to build a more robust and diversified economy were evident in the way he guided the process.
And something everyone really appreciates is Steve’s respect for other people’s time and a commitment to remain on task and punctual.
These qualities are not only recognized by this group, but his leadership on this project will be recognized by the Maine Development Foundation in its upcoming annual meeting.
I’d like “YA-ALL” to give Steve a round of applause in recognition of the effort he’s given to all of us.
The Council presents this award to Steven Schley in recognition of his strong commitment as the chair of the Forest Opportunity Roadmap Project. His leadership helped secure funding and encouraged a diverse coalition of business, government and community leaders to implement actions that continue to bring innovation, investment and diversification to Maine’s forest economy and prosperity to its people.