BANGOR, Maine — Pine Tree Legal Assistance awarded the first Janet Milley Award for Board Leadership on Wednesday to Cesar Britos, 47, of Portland.
The award was named for Milley, a Bangor lawyer who died of cancer in April at the age of 51. It will be given each year to one of the 28 people who serve on the board of directors for the nonprofit legal services provider, according to Nan Heald, executive director for PTLA.
“It was a very emotional thing for me because of our friendship,” Britos said Thursday about his reaction to receiving the award. “We worked closely together for 12 years on the board.”
Under Britos’ leadership as board president, PTLA added a statewide employment law unit and continued to strengthen its commitment to the legal needs of low-wage workers, according to a press release issued Thursday.
Milley and Britos had more in common than their career choices. Britos was born in Argentina, Milley in Canada. Both worked for large firms, Britos for Unum in South Portland, Milley for TD Bank in Bangor.
“Janet was committed to making sure poor people had legal representation,” Britos said.
Britos shared that quality with Milley, said current board President Robert Lingley on Thursday.
“When I sat down to pick who should receive the award, I put the names of five people on a piece of paper,” said Lingley, 67, of Bangor. “It is a tribute to our board that we have that many leaders. Cesar was president just before I was, and he has been a great mentor to me as I’ve gotten to know the job.”
Lingley took over as president a year ago after serving for two years as vice president. His term as president ends in fall 2011.
“We wanted to honor Janet’s accomplishments as president of the board and her leadership in bringing the board to a new level of activity and responsibility,” he said of why the award was created. “It just seemed natural.”
Milley, who lived in the Sandy Point area of Stockton Springs, joined the board in 1998, just four years after graduating from law school, and served on it until shortly before her death from cancer, according to the press release issued Thursday by PTLA. She served as board president from 2005 to 2007, when the program marked its 40th anniversary. She resigned from the board on April 1, two weeks before her death.
A plaque honoring Milley will be hung in PTLA’s Bangor office, Heald said Thursday.
Milley’s husband, Douglas Coffin of Sandy Point, joined the presentation on behalf of her family, according to Heald.