The Engagers: Molly WoodwardHow did you come to be in Waterville? Why did you return?
I wanted to go to Thomas College forever. I grew up in the small town of Burlington, ME – I graduated with 50 students and I didn’t want to get lost in the college experience. I was looking for a small class size and a tight-knit community, and Thomas was the perfect fit.
While at Thomas, I interned at the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and fell in love with the city of Waterville. I watched [President and CEO] Kim’s passion for what she does, and saw the tight-knit business community working together to grow. I would never want to leave.
How has Waterville changed during your time here?
So much! Maybe my awareness of it has changed. Where once Main Street didn’t have a lot of shops, now it has new businesses and everyone wants to join in. There’s a greater variety of activities – when I was at Thomas College, the only place we knew about was Silver Street Tavern.
Tell me about your work with KV Connect. What do you do and why?
When KV Connect was under Waterville Main Street, it was robust. But when I joined, there were four people – it was in a lull. How could we build it back up? The Chamber of Commerce took us in, and we got as many people as we could to join. When we started to host GreenDrinks events, we found a purpose. Now that we’ve gained strength, we’re broadening our scope. I really enjoy the camaraderie – it’s ours. We do this. It gives us a part of the growth in Waterville.
Tell me about young professionals’ groups outside and inside Waterville. How does they compare?
Through Realize Maine, I get a taste of what other young professionals’ groups are doing. Many are very sports-oriented. We have such a food culture here, so most of our events center around the restaurant scene.
Where do you think Waterville will be in 5-10 years?
If we continue to ride the wave, our best advantage is the arts and culture scene. I see us being the arts and culture destination not only in mid-Maine but statewide as well. Portland is a big player, but we already have internationals visitors through Colby and Thomas Colleges, the Maine International Film Festival, etc. I think that could be us.
Where will KV Connect be in 5-10 years?
I hope that we have established ourselves so large employers drive their young professionals to us. We’ll be the go-to group if you want to network.
Why should young people get involved in a small, rural city like Waterville?
You get to know people. For me, it does come naturally – I’m blessed that I enjoyed talking to people. When it’s winter and you’ve been inside for three months, you want to have a place to go where you can be welcome. It makes life more pleasant, more full.
What are the challenges you face as a young leader in your field?
The internet – because you feel so close yet so far away. It’s an extremely tricky balance to get the word out about our events. If KV Connect overdoes its communications, the message gets lost. We constantly ask ourselves, ‘how much information do we want to share and how often?’ We can’t be annoying, but we need to offer reminders.
What advice do you have for Millennials deciding where to put down roots and get involved?
Decide what’s important and envision what kind of life do you want in five to ten years. Truly putting down roots. Working at New Dimensions FCU, I truly believe it’s here.
In addition, you have to put in the effort; if you’re not self-promoting you won’t meet your goals. Set yourself apart.
What’s your pitch for greater Waterville?
It’s a place where there’s opportunity – whatever that means to you. We have something for everybody.