LEWISTON — Last month, Matt Leonard walked into the garage of his Auburn home to find it raining overhead.

“Someone who resides in my house — it wasn’t me — let the water run for three hours” in a second-floor bathroom, Leonard said.

As he stood there, taking in $15,000 worth of damage, the local ServiceMaster jingle popped into his head, so he reached out.

“You’re not going to be anywhere else where owners are going to call you, make sure it’s taken care of. It’s phenomenal,” he said.

Leonard, who moved here a year ago with his wife to become the new chamber of commerce president, used the story Thursday morning as an example of being welcomed into, and continually impressed by, the community.

“The people in this room are exceptionally gifted at what they do,” he told those at the Kora Temple during the monthly Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast. “And I hope that I do enough every day when I’m outside of Lewiston-Auburn telling people about that.”


He gave the speech called “366” as a nod to his official arrival — one year and one day before.

Leonard, who grew up in Portland and spent 21 years in the U.S. Navy, was hired from among 54 applicants to take over from the retiring Chip Morrison.

“There’s no degree for chamber president and CEO. Realizing that, last year I made a lot of mistakes,” he said, adding after the breakfast: “I think I was so passionate about starting the job that I wasn’t patient enough at times. I tried to run too hard, too fast.”

In the past year, the chamber has rebranded and changed its name; he’s still meeting with some towns concerned about that. Leonard said he believes it’s given the area more clout in Augusta, where he’s now a registered lobbyist.

“I would submit to you that the chamber is healthier, it’s vibrant and it’s ready to face the future,” Leonard said. “It’s current and it’s fresh. Now, that’s not because of me.”

He credited the collective work of the 1,192 members and staff.


The chamber has taken a more active role in promoting the area for tourism, leaving the broader-image work to the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, and creating its own tourism committee.

“If we bring more people here, that’s more money in everyone’s pockets, and that’s not just hotels,” he said.

Leonard pointed to Eric Agren’s French restaurant, Fuel, where 52 percent of customers come from outside the Twin Cities.

“We’re already a destination, and I think people know that,” Leonard said. “We need to figure out how to optimize that, how we can bring more people here.”

Part of that: securing 12 pages for the first time in the Travel Maine guide found in places such as the Portland International Jetport and Kittery visitor information center. Those pages are filled with events and things to do in the area.

On the personal front, Leonard and his wife, Rebekah, bought a house in Auburn. They adopted a dog and named her Aria. Rebekah also reopened a business she’d started when they were in California, Ninth Tone Voice Studios.

His day one goal, to meet every chamber member in the first year, fell short, “so that quest continues,” he said.

“If there was an example in what a chamber president should be and what abilities and attributes they should possess, luckily I followed that in Chip Morrison,” Leonard told the room. “I do believe in continuous improvement. I know I’m going to get better and I pledge to you in the next year, I will work to do so.”

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