SAM’s two longest serving board members have resigned. Jim Gorman and Jim Hilly served together for 22 years, longer than any SAM board members in the organization’s history. Gorman cited SAM’s transition “in a new direction” for his resignation.
At the same time, new board member Amos Eno also resigned. Amos founded and directs the Resources First Foundation, described as an organization “founded in 2000 to support and develop conservation programs to strengthen and sustain rural communities, economies and green businesses, and to support private sector conservation initiatives by supporting the multi-faceted conservation needs of private landowners.”
The Foundation has been very successful and now has a presence all over the country. Amos brought a lot of expertise – and an extraordinary ability to raise money – to the SAM Board, but served there for less than a year. He was brought on board by Gorman to strengthen the group’s leadership and fundraising team.
Only four members remain from the last 12-member board I served, just two and a half years after I left SAM to write full time. No board members remain from the group that served during most of my 18-year tenure.
Jim Hilly contributed to SAM’s work at an extraordinary level. A resident of Portland, Jim’s passion is firearms and he was a strong advocate for gun rights. He’s also very proud of his moose! While he once served as Portland’s Transportation Director, much of his career was spent as an Unemployment Compensation Commissioner in both the King and Baldacci Administrations.
Jim was especially good on the laws and rules that govern nonprofit groups. He was our in-house expert on SAM’s bylaws and other legal and organizational issues. When we merged SAM with its Conservation Education Fund a few years ago, Jim wrote the legal documents including by-laws and sheparded us through the process to win federal approval for the merger.
But it was when he stepped up and volunteered to manage the State of Maine Sportsman’s Show that Jim most strongly demonstrated his commitment to SAM. SAM shares ownership and responsibility for the state’s largest sportsman’s show with The Maine Sportsman magazine. Jim managed the last five shows on behalf of SAM, sharing that duty with TMS’s editor Harry Vanderweide. Jim and Harry worked on the show year-round, often meeting weekly. It’s a lot of work. Harry retired from his jobs as TMS’s editor and show organizer last year, and Jim managed this year’s show with Kelly Allen (now general manager of The Maine Sportsman but also SAM’s office manager during much my tenure there).
I learned the hard way, more than once, that Jim’s advice is the best. The SAM board and I made several mistakes over the years when we ignored his advice. Jim Hilly has been an extraordinary leader of Maine’s sportsmen, and his presence on the SAM Board and contributions to the organization will be missed. Honestly, I am not sure he is replaceable.
Jim saved SAM in 1995. I do not say this lightly. As SAM’s President that year, Jim stood up to board members who resigned and sued the remaining board members and me. He led us through a turbulent year that, finally, resulted in a Judge’s one-paragraph summary judgment dismissal of the lawsuit. This all happened in my second full year as executive director, and it was not only troubling but very disruptive, as you can imagine.
Without airing the entire matter, I can tell you that Jim Gorman’s strength and vision made the difference for the organization at that time. After he led us through that black period, SAM took off to become one of the state’s most influential organizations. He was a very big part of it all.
Throughout my 18 years as SAM’s Executive Director, I served just two SAM Presidents. Jim was President at the beginning and end of my service. Edie Cronk served as President for ten years in the middle of my tenure. Both were great people to work for and with, and will go down in the group’s history as its most effective leaders. And I say that as a former SAM President myself!
Jim never trumpeted the fact, but he is LL Bean’s grandson and works at Bean. It’s no accident that Jim’s family includes some of SAM’s most generous donors and lifetime members, or that LL Bean has been SAM’s most generous corporate partner. In January of this year, when SAM was in financial difficulty, the Gormans stepped up with extremely generous donations to get the organization through that crisis.
I especially appreciated Jim’s leadership style. He fostered a relationship that allowed me to work as a team with the board, creating an environment of trust where we were able work together in good will and friendship. It was very effective. In fact, without that, I would not have lasted 18 years. Every one of my contracts gave the board the opportunity to fire me at will. I often told them I did not want to work there if they didn’t want me.
In my last issue of the SAM News, published in November of 2010, I listed SAM’s achievements from 1993 to 2010. It’s a very long list, and Jim Gorman and Jim Hilly were important to every single achievement. Winnowing the list down to what I considered the top ten achievements, I came up with these:
Became an influential force at the legislature, with annual agendas that enjoyed great success.
Made SAM PAC a powerful nonpartisan political action committee with a very high percentage of victories.
Won the very challenging 2004 bear referendum.
Created a Fishing Initiative Committee of avid anglers who have worked together for 18 years to bring fishing issues to the forefront, including at the legislature, and led the effort to establish fall fishing, protect native brook trout, grow quality landlocked salmon, simplify fishing rules, and much more.
Brought stability to SAM’s finances and membership and constructed one of the state’s most beautiful and functional headquarters and conference centers.
Played a key role in conservation projects that added 2 million acres to Maine’s inventory of conservation lands open to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation.
Created strong alliances with other sportsmen’s groups, landowners, farmers, and environmentalists.
Created – with our partner Maine Audubon – the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund that has awarded more than $17 million to conservation and outdoor recreation projects.
Created the Pickering Commission that regularly reviews laws, rules, and publications to simplify, clarify, and improve them.
Created the Sportsman’s Congress that brings outdoor leaders together once a year to preview issues that will dominate their agenda in the coming year.
It’s a pretty impressive list, wouldn’t you agree? And Jim Gorman and Jim Hilly were very impressive leaders of our state’s largest and most influential sportsman’s group. On behalf of all the SAM members I served, I can only say: Thank you Jim and Jim.
If you see either of the Jims anytime soon, please let them know that you also appreciated and valued their service.