The Engagers: Samantha BurdickHow did you come to be in Waterville? Why did you return?
I grew up in Oakland, attended college out of state, worked in Tanzania, and then returned home. The Waterville area is affordable and I always wanted my kids to grow up here. Central Maine is home. A lot of my friends from high school returned to the area as well.
How has Waterville changed during your time here?
There are a lot of new buildings and new restaurants. Even though I was a teacher earlier in my career and wasn’t as involved in the business community as I am now, I still notice that there is a lot more energy in the city.
Tell me about your work with KV Connect. What do you do and why?
I’m really passionate about getting young people involved in their community. [Co-Chair] Molly and I have worked really hard in KV Connect to build on our fresh, new ideas to get more young people involved.
Where do you think Waterville will be in 5-10 years?
Waterville will become a hub for people to visit. We have a great foodie scene that people don’t really know about yet, and a new Art Center is coming soon. It will be like when MIFF [Maine International Film Festival] happens, but more of that year-round. People will travel here – it will be a destination.
Where will KV Connect be in 5-10 years?
Hopefully the region’s growth will help KV Connect grow – the energy in downtown will draw people here and encourage them to stay here. People, especially student graduates, will see Waterville as a fun city to live in.
Why should young people get involved in a small, rural city like Waterville?
It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond. When I went to school in Boston, I realized I was interested in a career in political science. It wouldn’t be easy to start a political career in Boston, but here it’s easy to climb the ladder, connect with people, get opportunities – someone will take a chance on you. It’s a really good way to build a career, and it’s really easy to make a name for yourself in a small town.
What are the challenges you face as a young leader in your field?
I spent the first part of my career teaching, so I had to find ways to break into the business community. KV Connect allowed me to network and make connections that helped me grow my career and eventually open doors to the position I hold now. In a smaller city like Waterville, there are so many opportunities to connect with community leaders, and getting involved in the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce has opened a lot of doors for me.
With regards to challenges KV Connect is overcoming, the biggest challenge is debunking the myth that networking is scary. Our hope is to be the stepping-stone to networking. It can be challenging and intimidating to break in. Many times, people don’t come to our events because they don’t know someone. As well, our events are relevant only to business people (e.g. not teachers) – we need to diversify to reach a range of people where they are.
What advice do you have for Millennials deciding where to put down roots and get involved?
You want a community that has diverse experiences – you want a place where you can have fun and entertainment but can also build a career. I didn’t want to get stuck at a big company and be a hamster in a wheel, where I’d only have one skill set and need to wait to be promoted. I wanted to make a name for myself. Find a place where there’s a way for you to grow professionally and in the community.
What’s your pitch for greater Waterville?
Waterville has so much energy and so many ways to get involved no matter your interest. There are a lot of non-profits and opportunities to volunteer, and we have a strong business community supported by the Chamber. We have two post-secondary schools – what an opportunity – and free small business resources for entrepreneurs. People are excited and passionate about the city’s growth and vibrancy.