FORT KENT, Maine — Town Manager Donald Guimond’s calm and effective efforts last spring to lead his community through the worst flooding it had seen in recorded history have earned him some national recognition.
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Friday that Guimond has been named winner of its 2009 Phoenix Award for outstanding contributions to disaster recovery by a public official.
The award will be presented on May 19 during SBA’s National Small Business Week celebration in Washington.
“The Phoenix Award is an acknowledgment of an individual’s heroic work and a recognition of the contributions they make to the recovery of their communities,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said Friday.
Mills said Guimond “displayed tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the aftermath of the flood and he exemplifies the spirit one must have to rebuild after a disaster like this.”
Reached Friday at his office in Fort Kent, Guimond downplayed his role in the effort to get his town back on its feet.
“I’m not involved in municipal government for the purpose of awards, so it’s kind of humbling to receive this,” he said.
“It’s really the community that makes it possible. In my book, the community’s the hero, not me,” he said, adding that the flood recovery work isn’t finished. The town, he said, faces about $3.5 million in infrastructure work to its water and wastewater treatment facilities this summer.
During the winter of 2007-2008, northern Maine saw more than 200 inches of snowfall. In the spring, rains washed away the remainder of the snow, leading to the flooding of the St. John and Fish rivers at their junction in Fort Kent.
According to the SBA, Guimond played a key role in keeping the community safe last spring during the floods.
As the floodwaters rose beyond the 25-foot flood stage last May 1, Guimond ordered mandatory evacuations, while town workers built temporary dikes to protect the downtown area.
Concerned that some Fort Kent residents, particularly the elderly, would not vacate their homes, Guimond and the town’s fire chief went door to door to encourage those at risk to leave.
Because of Guimond’s efforts, no one died in the aftermath of the worst flooding in the town’s recorded history, according to the SBA.
As the waters receded, Guimond reassured the disaster victims by giving timely information about recovery resources. He also served as the link between townspeople and state and federal agencies providing assistance.
His leadership in the midst of a dangerous situation saved lives, protected the community and hastened the area’s post-disaster recovery, the SBA said.
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, praised Guimond and his work.
“Donald Guimond is a true hero — somebody who went above and beyond the call of duty when disaster struck,” Snowe said in a statement issued Friday.
“His efforts were instrumental in ensuring that citizens’ lives were saved, and that emergency resources quickly reached those in need. Without [his] actions, the devastation in Fort Kent may well have been far worse.”