The Natural Resources Council of Maine CEO is captivated by Acadia’s Wonderland Trail.
Photo by John K. Putnam
Sanders recently bought a house in Bath that was constructed for World War I shipbuilders. “It’s similar to the house where I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, which was built for returning World War II GIs.”
Under Sanders’s leadership, NRCM aims to develop climate solutions with tangible local benefits. “It’s not just getting wind and solar up and running; it’s doing it in a way that allows communities to have a voice and experience the results.”
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE . . .
Twelve-year-old daughter Juliet’s favorite hike is to the Bubbles, overlooking Jordan Pond. “That has deep meaning for me,” Sanders says.
The week that Rebeccah Sanders accepted the position of CEO at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, she happened upon a photo from her first visit to the Pine Tree State while digitizing her parents’ slide collection. “My mom and I are sitting outside having popovers at Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park,” the Chicago-area native says. “It’s the late 1970s, not long before the original Jordan Pond House burned down, and I’m three years old. We visited Maine many times after that. I have a distinct memory of being nine and telling my mom, ‘I’m going to live here someday.’”
Sanders, who started at the Augusta-based environmental nonprofit in late January, has made good on that childhood pronouncement twice now. When she was in her early 20s, her husband, Dan Cullen, a Navy pilot, was assigned to submarine-surveillance missions out of Brunswick. Sanders landed a job with GEAR UP, a federal program that aims to prepare low-income students for college. “I worked with schools in about 40 communities, from the refugee community in Portland to small towns in Aroostook County and down east. I learned how diverse Maine is and how to create meaningful solutions for each community’s day-to-day challenges.”
After leading an itinerant Navy-family life, the couple and their three children settled in Chicago, where Sanders worked at the National Audubon Society for nearly a decade. The family vacationed in Acadia in all seasons, and, while Sanders will always treasure Jordan Pond, she carved out a special place in her heart for the Wonderland Trail, in Southwest Harbor. “It has all the beauty, but it’s quieter, more reflective,” she says. “The name even evokes that; it feels like a secret.”
Then again, Sanders says, Maine’s magnificence extends well beyond the coast, and she relishes the opportunity to put her environmental-advocacy experience to work in every corner of the state. “It’s unreal how beautiful Maine is,” she says. “I feel so lucky to be here every day.”
Headshot courtesy of Rebeccah Sanders/NRCM
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