Judy Berk, 67, of Northport is retired from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Submitted photo

Judy Berk spent childhood summers in South Waterford exploring and playing in the woods and collecting feathers, leaves and shells.

That love of nature has defined her adult life.

Berk, 67, and her husband maintain a quarter-acre garden at their house in Northport. She is an amateur nature and wildlife photographer and a former homesteader. She hikes and kayaks when she can.

And she worked for 28 years as communications director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.

“I decided the way I wanted to help nurture our environment was through communications,” she said in a recent interview.

Working for NRCM “to help protect the nature of our special state, which I love so dearly,” was the opportunity of a lifetime, Berk said.

The Boston native was raised in a suburb just outside the city and has lived in Waldo County for 46 years.

She retired from the Natural Resources Council in 2018 and has turned down a number of job offers, she said, while figuring out what she wanted to do next.

She decided a good use of her time would be to volunteer for Our Power, a coalition of ratepayers, business leaders, energy experts and conservationists committed to turning Maine electricity companies into consumer-owned utilities.

“For most of my professional life I have worked to support clean-energy alternatives, especially solar,” she said. “In fact, we power our home and office with solar.”

She would like to see the state operate on 100% clean energy.

But Central Maine Power Co. and Versant Power Corp. (serving northern and eastern Maine), owned and operated by corporate boards from far away, are not set up for that, she said.

CMP is owned by Iberdrola, based in Spain, and Versant is owned by ENMAX, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Our Power campaign aims to buy the Maine systems and create a consumer-owned utility named Pine Tree Power. The cost would be amortized, like a home mortgage, according to the campaign’s website.

The interest rate would be lower than that for investor-owned utilities, which would reduce the cost of future capital expenditures, according to the website.

“It will also save us all money by not shipping profits to investors and owners out of the state and out of the country,” according to the campaign.

Berk said she volunteered to help with the Our Power campaign when she learned consumer-owned utilities “can change Maine for the better.”

The state has nine COUs and there are 2,000 across the country, she said.

“They are nonprofits that only represent their customers’ interests and have proven to be far more reliable and less expensive than the CMPs and Versants of the world,” Berk said. “Not surprisingly, the first utilities in the country to get to 100% clean energy are all consumer-owned.”

Her work for the campaign has included writing and editing fact sheets and materials for the Our Power website. She is now working on an announcement for legislation that would create COUs in place of CMP and Versant.

Berk’s life also has been defined by volunteerism. She has served on town boards, including solid waste, harbor and land-use planning. She spent nine years on her local land trust board and served on the board of the New England Solar Energy Association. She also has volunteered for ballot initiatives and other campaigns.

Asked what she does in her free time, Berk said with a laugh, “I have no free time!”

Small wonder.

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