engaging your municipality

Note: Below, and throughout our site, underlined text indicates a live link.

Although a few of Maine's Age-Friendly/Lifelong Communities are organized by a municipal employee, the majority are coordinated by volunteers or local organizations. Establishing a strong relationship between age-friendly, elected officials, and municipal departments is critical for sustainable age-friendly community development, especially in the built environment and implementing policies that are age-inclusive. Despite the key role of municipal government, many lifelong community teams have struggled with how best to foster a strong alliance with town or city officials. 

In June 2023, as part of the Building Strong Foundations for Future Growth conference, we brought together representatives from local government to share hints and tips for nurturing municipal relationships. Linda Weare, Executive Director of the Portland Office of Elder Affairs and Chair or Age-Friendly Portland, and Nate Rudy, then Town Manager of Gray, developed handouts with their recommendations.

Steve Palmer, Chair of Living Well in North Yarmouth and prior Select Board Member, agreed to conduct an informal survey of 10-12 town managers and compile their answers. Conducted in late 2023, the survey sought to learn from town and city managers the factors and actions that they observed (or been part of) that led to successful Age-Friendly committees. Managers from various towns representing six counties were interviewed. This is a summary report of what he learned.

Berwick town manager, James Bellisimo, helps fill sand buckets to give to older residents. 

Committee Structure

The success of the committee was not determined by structure.  Successful lifelong communities come in all forms. The key building blocks were having members who were skilled in diplomacy, had passion and commitment, and were engaged and positive.

 Jim Bellissimo - former chair of Berwick for a Lifetime and current Town Manager:

Structure is wonderful for long term success, but unnecessary bureaucracy can turn people away from volunteering. A balance is important. Envision Berwick very well could be a non-profit but is very successful as a standing committee. So overall I don’t see a distinction or advantage one way or the other.

Take-Away - Don't get too caught up in structure but focus on keeping committee members and volunteers engaged and motivated. 

Deter Town Manager, Trampas King, presents flowers to one of the Age-Friendly Dexter Tea Talk participants.

municipal support

Town administrators demonstrated unwavering support for the Age-Friendly/Lifelong Community programs. In each of the communities interviewed, town/city manager support was always available but the way it was provided varied. Some managers were very involved in all town committees. Town managers with a hands-on-approach to their role in the community attended Age-Friendly/Lifelong Community planning meetings and events. Some worked/volunteered at the events, while others provided administrative support or allocated municipal employees to support activities and programs. Some communities assign a member of the select board or municipal staff to attend Age-Friendly/Lifelong Community meetings. Others have developed paid positions to provide broad support to the committee. For example, Bowdoinham has expanded the hours of their Recreation Director so that he can also take the role of Age-Friendly Coordinator

Take-Away - Town managers and city administrators are important sources of support for Age-Friendly/Lifelong Communities but they have very different working styles. Find ways to celebrate the help they offer and don't forget to say thank you. 

Tim Curtis, prior manager of Madison Maine, wrote a grant for funding from the Maine Community Foundation to hire an Age-Friendly Coordinator to lead their work. Ongoing funding has been gained through the town's TIFF funds. 

Financial support

Funding support may come from a variety of sources, including municipal budgets, AARP, community fundraising, and other sources.

Take-Away - If your Age-Friendly/Lifelong Committee receives municipal funds, it is critical to attend and participate in budget meetings. Think outside the box when you are looking for funding so that you can show that your committee contributes to the town to get work done that benefits all ages. 

Caribou Town Manager Penny Thompson enjoys a strong relationship with Age-Friendly Caribou and is deeply grateful for the leadership role played by Cary Medical Center


Recruitment is an ongoing effort for all committees.  In addition to the complexities of age-friendly during the pandemic, many committees have gone through transitions in municipal leadership or on their committee. Regaining and maintaining momentum are both challenges. 

Penny Thompson in Caribou describes committee membership as STP - The Same Ten People. This point was underscored by other town managers. Recruitment of new members usually falls to the committee members who are able to cast a wider net and engage residents who aren't traditionally at the decision table. Managers provide support from the sidelines. Sharing the committee’s action plan broadly, communicating successes, and keeping barriers to joining the committee low are some keys to successful recruiting.

Take-Away - Casting a wide net, making a personal ask, and being a committee that welcomes diverse opinions are a few of the tactics used successfully to recruit new members.

Town Manager of Chesea, Christine Landes, works closely with Age-Friendly Chelsea to keep the channels of communication open. 


Town managers understand the larger picture. They are important to the success of age-friendly so they should always be “kept in the loop”.

 Routine reporting of activities to elected officials and the municipal administration, as well as town residents, is essential to success. Committees use many different methods and strategies:

Take-Away - Communication is always a top priority. It helps to keep the municipality, partners, and residents informed. Good communication can also boost engagement and aid recruitment.

Ray Weintraub, current town manager of Sullivan,joins Candy Eaton, chair of Age-Friendly Sullivan, and Rob Eaton, prior town manager, to receive the Beacon Award, recognition for the work to make Sullivan a better place to live and age. 

Program Continuity

Different strategies work in different towns – the rule is to use what works.

Take-Away - Program sustainability requires a combination of municipal support, recruitment, communication, and committee members who are engaged and enthusiastic!

We are deeply grateful to the following town managers for sharing their wisdom and experiences: Jim Bellissimo -  Berwick; Nicole Briand – Bowdoinham; Penny Thompson – Caribou; Trampas King – Dexter; Mike Sullivan – Eliot; Tim Curtis – Madison; Bill Kerbin – New Gloucester; Scott Morelli – South Portland; Ray Weintraub - Sullivan; Betty Johnson – Waldo County; Christine Landes - Chelsea; Nate Rudy – formerly of Gray 

and to Steve Palmer, for developing and implementing the survey, conducting the interviews, and compiling this report.