Brett Bisson, director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Garden Inn, poses for a photo in the Riverwatch Grand Ballroom. Bisson will be receiving one of Uplift LA’s 40 Under 40 awards. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

A pastry instructor, detective, real estate agent, company president, stage manager.

In its fourth year, Uplift LA’s newest class of 40 Under 40 are all over the Twin Cities as emerging leaders, volunteers, teachers and artist.

Since 2016, 40 Under 40 has received more than 440 nominations, 6,800-plus community votes and recognized 130 different young and rising professionals, according to Committee Chair Matthew Shaw.

The latest honorees were celebrated in a virtual ceremony on Friday, with Uplift LA changing the format up this year by choosing 10 individuals among the 40 as awardees within their categories.

Today, meet four of the 40 faces.

Brandon Chaloux: Creative geniuses honoree

Brandon Chaloux, a Lewiston-Auburn Community Little Theatre volunteer, is one of the recipients of Uplift LA’s 40 Under 40 honors this year. He is seen here on the stage of the theater in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Brandon Chaloux was a junior at Lewiston High School, studying in the construction program in 2009, when a LHS musical production of “Little Women” needed help building the set.

He built, and then he stayed.

“The theater community is so open and welcoming, I just wanted to be part of it,” said Chaloux, 27. “Really, it’s a way of life. The thought of being able to play make-pretend, if you will, on stage was something that I always thought was so fascinating, and being part of that process was a great experience.”

Out of the many productions in the past decade with Lewiston-Auburn Community Little Theatre, he picked acting in “Sister Act” and stage managing “Chicago” and “Into the Woods” as highlights.

Being in the front of the house or the back is “equally challenging in very different ways,” Chaloux said.

“Being backstage as a stage manager, you’re literally what’s called ‘calling the show’: Every single time the lights change, there’s a number attached to that light change. Every sound effect, every song, every actor that enters, that exists, moves, technical effects, so it’s all kind of my own little orchestra,” he said. “I’m backstage saying, ‘L31 standby, S2 standby, L31 go . . . ‘ It’s a different type of performance that you’re seeing but you don’t realize.”

Chaloux, who works in business management and lives in Lewiston, said the last six months have been crushing for theaters everywhere.

“It’s really caused us to have to think completely differently about how we perform and what we do, all of that,” he said.

But the show will go on, even if at CLT they’re not certain what show that will be.

“What we’re really trying to do is to fund raise for the theater, to grow the business, to fix the building and to raise the funds so that we can come back bigger and stronger than ever,” Chaloux said.

Having been born and raised here, he said Lewiston’s been a city that he can’t bring himself to leave.

“It’s not a perfect town — we all know about the issues that we struggle with — but it’s home and it’s different and it’s where I want to be, and it’s a place where I feel like I can make a difference, even if it’s just in my own little corner of the theater world,” he said. “There’s nowhere like Lewiston.”

Shayli M. Huston: Entrepreneurs honoree

Realtor Shayli M. Huston is one of the recipients of the 2020 Uplift LA’s 40 Under 40 honors. She is seen here standing in front of one of the properties she is representing in Litchfield. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Walking around a Lewiston neighborhood six years ago, Shayli M. Huston spied a dumpster in a driveway and, on a lark, decided to look in the empty windows of the house where it was parked.

“That place is intriguing, it needs a lot of work,” she remembers saying to herself. “We weren’t looking for a house, but we found this and we bought it.”

Huston, a 2009 Edward Little graduate, studied and worked in cosmetology after high school. As she and her husband slowly updated their new house, inspired by the occasional home improvement show, she thought more and more about getting into real estate.

She finally became a licensed real estate agent last year.

“I tried it and fell in love and found my niche,” said Huston, 29. “I love growing, I love learning. Anything I can do with that stuff I’m down for it.”

She works at Realty One Group-Compass, specializing in residential listings, and that feeling of matching people with their houses is like no other.

“It’s amazing, especially when you’re competing with other buyers and you can guide your buyer to do exactly what they need to do to get the home they want, it’s so crazy,” Huston said. “It’s making sure they’re set up and happy and, bonus, I get paid out of it.”

She’s stayed in Lewiston-Auburn because she knows the community well and has built up a good network through cosmetology clients. But as work in real estate expands, “I’d love to dabble more southern or even more northern. I’d like to be all over the place.”

While Lewiston may remain her home base, her current address may not. The couple bought low and hope to someday sell high.

“Right now I’m updating my bathroom, because the market is fantastic for sellers,” Huston said. “I want to update the bathroom and the kitchen because those are two big items when buyers are looking. The more that I remodel everything or update things, the more I can tell (clients) about how they can do it while they tweak their home to be their forever home, wherever it may be.”

Alyson Daniels: Education awardee

Alyson Daniels is the event coordinator at Central Maine Community College, and also oversees the college’s Center for Testing & Assessment. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In her early 20s, Alyson Daniels envisioned becoming a wedding and special events planner. A move back to Maine later, near her parents in Wales, and that didn’t look possible until she found the event coordinator role at Central Maine Community College.

Now, it’s planning conferences for teachers and STEM summits.

“In my brain, I was like, this is the best of both worlds,” said Daniels, 31.

Daniels, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration, said the role has evolved since she started three years ago, in ways such as overseeing the Center for Testing & Assessment that have brought a lot of rewards.

“I think one of the favorite parts of my job is being able to help people feel like they’re taking a step in the right direction,” she said. “Whether it’s working with a student of the college to get an extra set of skills, whether it’s working with a community member at the testing center — they’re coming in for an insurance exam and they’ve been studying for two months and they come in and they pass their exam — while I have nothing to do with the exam, I think being a part of their testing experience is hugely important.”

Daniels graduated from Oak Hill High School in 2006 and dated her now-husband, Eric, in high school. Growing up, they focused on academics and sports.

“When we moved away, we finally had a chance to experience things, whether it was mountain biking or camping — the things that we had talked about wanting to do when we were kids,” she said. “Being away, we realized how much of those things are available, not only in the state of Maine, but in the Lewiston-Auburn area.”

The couple moved back in 2015. For the last six years, they’ve been Dempsey Challenge volunteers, now on the organizing committee.

“We actually run the beer tent when the Dempsey Challenge takes place,” Daniels said. “Being able to be a part of that event in particular, and seeing the outreach that it has, we are so thankful to be able to be such a part of it and be able to give back in a way that doesn’t feel like giving back.”

Brett Bisson: Emerging leaders honoree

After graduating from Leavitt Area High School in 2010, Brett Bisson decided to pursue a criminal justice degree at CMCC and took a part-time front desk position at the Hampton Inn in Freeport. A few semesters in, he knew that criminal justice wasn’t for him but hospitality was.

He became full time, then promoted to sales. Now, he’s the director of sales at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch.

“I fell in love from the get-go and I still love it,” said Bisson, 28. “Pretty much my sole responsibility is driving revenue throughout the hotel in general, whether it be like the Grille & Bar, events and then obviously all of the guest rooms.

“I love the thrill of getting a contract and getting that revenue secured,” he said. “As soon as we get that signed contract in hand, it’s almost like an adrenaline rush — we celebrate with the team.”

He and his husband, Marc, live in Auburn and love to travel, “pretty much anywhere that’s near a body of water,” for a mix of business and pleasure.

“We stay at bigger properties, or a Waldorf Astoria by Hilton, an elite, full-service hotel, just to see their operations and how their staff is,” Bisson said. “All of us at the hotel, whenever we travel to another property, we always bring that feedback back to our team. We try to use that to try to improve ourselves based on those experiences.”

With the pandemic, this spring and summer were challenging for the industry. Staying nimble was key.

“April was really scary. We weren’t sure if we were going to have to temporarily close our doors,” he said. “August has painted a completely different picture from what we were thinking we’d be seeing back in April. You definitely have to be flexible, you have to pivot your operations, your responsibilities to better the team and the property in times like this. Working with finesse has honestly been probably the best way to describe how the past five months has been.”

Bisson can see potentially leaving L-A at some point for his career, “but I always would see us, if we were to put roots in, buy a house, it would probably be in Maine.”

“Cost of living, you can’t beat it really compared to the big cities or southern Maine, and the easy-breezy kind of feel, like you could drive with your eyes closed compared to when you travel to other places,” said Bisson. “It’s so zen and laid back and everyone knows everyone. It’s very home to us.”


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