David Flood, who started the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier in 1989, was tapped to lead the volunteer effort to establish Heart of Biddeford in 2004 and later became a Biddeford city councilor, was recently named the city’s Spirit of America Volunteer of the Year. He talked a bit about it all in a recent interview. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — It was 2004, and Mayor Wallace Nutting wanted to initiate an effort to spruce up  Biddeford’s ailing downtown. Some people got together,  including the late Bob Dodge, the city’s longtime community development director among them, to discuss forming what would become Heart of Biddeford, a downtown revitalization organization.

“If this is going to work, we need you to be head of it,” David Flood remembers Dodge telling him.

Flood, who had arrived in his grandparents’ hometown of Biddeford 15 years earlier to start a newspaper, said “OK,” and then the work, which included raising enough money to hire an executive director, began. In all, $40,000 was raised, Flood recalled in a recent interview, over tea at Elements. The first $10,000 — $5,000 each from Biddeford Savings and Saco and Biddeford Savings Institution — came quickly, he recalled, and with more contributions the kitty soon topped $30,000. The last $10,000 took time, but the goal was achieved. Heart of Biddeford became a reality and Rachael Weyand became the first director in 2005. Flood was the organization’s president for five years.

For those efforts and others, Flood, 66, was named the recipient of Biddeford’s Spirit of America Volunteer Award for 2021 by the Biddeford City Council on Aug. 17.

The award came as a surprise. He was at the city council meeting to ask for a letter of support for HOB’s application for a Great American Main Street Award — which the council approved — but then Mayor Alan Casavant began to speak.

David Flood, shown here with Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, with the City Council behind them, was recently named Biddeford’s Spirit of America Volunteer for 2021. Courtesy Photo/City of Biddeford

“Over the years, whenever there’s been a need, you’ve been there,” Casavant said to Flood. “When you look at the downtown, before any of us really became involved in terms of more funding, you were there.”

Flood, who sold the weekly Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier and its five sister newspapers in February 2007, was elected to the Biddeford City Council in November that year, serving a two-year term. He made unsuccessful bids for mayor and later for the Maine Legislature, and was elected to the city council again in 2011, resigning after a few months to take on another business venture. He has served on several municipal committees and remains a member of the city’s Strategic Planning Committee and of the Zoning Board of Appeals. He was president of the Biddeford Saco Chamber of Commerce in the mid-1990s.

The award speaks to his contributions:

“Thank you for enlightening residents to important local news, for serving on the council and numerous city committees, to being a catalyst in the rebirth of Main Street, and for having devoted thousands of hours to improving our quality of life,” it states. “Thank you for all that you do and all you have done. You make our world a better place.”

Flood, whose father owned newspapers in Dover, Delaware, was 14 years old when he wrote his first news story and got his first editing job — a summer gig — when he was 17.

He had spent time in Biddeford as a child and young adult — it was the hometown of his grandparents, Jim and Florence Gallagher Flood. Jim Flood died in 1942, but David remembers frequent trips to visit his grandmother, who was the head telephone operator at AT&T in Biddeford, at her apartment in the vicinity of Union and Alfred streets, as a child and young adult. He knew Biddeford, he said, and his wife Carolyn liked it here. They moved to the area in 1989 with their young sons, Chris and Adam, and started the newspaper business. Eventually there were six weekly newspapers, employing 28 people.

“A good newspaper helps a lot, it helps the community,” he said.

As a city councilor, Flood recalled suggesting in 2008 the city start a recycling system as it currently operates. It was not adopted at the time because of a deep recession, but after the city bought the Maine Energy Recovery Company incinerator located in the downtown in 2012, the council voted to implement his plan, he said.

“I’m proud of that,” he said.

These days, Flood is retired, and he and Carolyn enjoy being grandparents of two little ones, Irving and Florence.

“I’ve always been proud to be associated with Biddeford,” Flood said.

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