This week, I’m proud to share the seventh of eight profiles of local leaders that were honored earlier this spring at the BBRC Annual Awards Dinner. Ray Nagel is a special and beloved leader, and it was an honor to honor him. Before that, I want to briefly highlight two upcoming chamber events both happening next week.

The first is our April Chamber After Hours co-hosted by SCORE of Central Maine and Union + Co., (at Union + Co. in Bath) from 5-7 p.m. next Wednesday, April 24. Our After Hours are top-notch networking events where we regularly see 60-75 business leaders come together for networking in an open house–style mixer. The event starts at 5 p.m., but don’t miss chamber our updates and host recognition at 6 p.m.

Secondly, the very next night, our Women in Local Leadership team (WILL Power) is having a social night at the Social Goose in Brunswick from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, April 25. We already have over two dozen women signed up to attend and to talk about events they would like to see planned for later this year. The event is called “Let’s Be Social Networking Event” and is sponsored by our friends at GoNetSpeed.

To register for either of these events, visit the BBRC website at midcoastmaine.com and look under the community calendar. You do not need to be a member to attend either event, you just need a business card showing that you are a local businessperson.

Now, here is the story of our very deserving Joshua L. Chamberlain Award winner, Ray Nagel.

Ray Nagel, 2024 Joshua L. Chamberlain Award

The Joshua L. Chamberlain Award has a storied history as it has been awarded, as the award criteria says, to “individuals whose activities have served to build upon the close relationship and understanding existing between the military and civilian components of the greater Brunswick-Topsham-Bath Community. Any military or civilian member of the Brunswick-Topsham-Bath community is eligible.” Ray Nagel is just that kind of leader.

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Ray became enlightened to the power of service at 10 years old when his beloved Aunt Shirley came to live with his family. Shirley had been born with cerebral palsy and was unable to walk because of it. From that time to when he left for college, Ray was Shirley’s primary caretaker. Ray has countless stories of the long, daily conversations they would have in her part of the house, how she was staunchly independent and even shares a tale about the first toilet transfer, which ended up with Ray landing on the toilet, with Shirley on his lap, as they both melted into fits of laughter.

Ray remembers the trips to appointments and regular tasks he used to help Shirley with, such as transferring her into the passenger seat of his 1972 Buick LeSabre, tossing the wheelchair in the back and heading off to the grocery store. In those times, though, he did see how people treated Shirley and how they treated him, and it wasn’t the same. In many interactions, he noticed Shirley, and others with disabilities, being discounted. This fueled Ray to want to make a positive, equitable change in the world. Aunt Shirley passed away a few years ago, but the lessons he learned from her are carried with Ray every day of his life.

Ray enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1984 and retired in January 2007 with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Medical Services Corp. In his 23 years, he learned lessons on leadership and teamwork but also never lost his passion for service and helping those in need. One great lesson Ray shared during our interview was a lesson while in Iraq that Colonel Novier had taught, which is “ethics are situational, but morals are constant.”

Today, Ray is on the precipice of a career milestone, which is his retirement at the end of the year. Most people know Ray for his work as the executive director of Independence Association or through their forward-facing program Spindleworks, which helps people with disabilities. What many don’t see — or may not know — are the countless hours Ray spends educating legislators, advocating for better policies for adults with disabilities and connecting with families to ensure their loved ones are getting the care they need and deserve.

I could try and tell you what Ray means to this region, but our chamber is not the best servant for that. The best servants are the servant leaders who nominated Ray for recognition this year. We received literally dozens of nominations for Ray as the community realizes how special he is. Here is just a sampling of that praise:

“Ray and the team at IA work tirelessly and are often unrecognized for the vital work they do for the folks in our community with developmental disabilities. … The work is compassionate, complicated, and often emotional … They are almost universally recognized as a leader in this manner of caregiving here in Maine.”

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” … the work they all are doing to educate lawmakers about the type of work they do is incredibly impactful given a lot of uncertainty coming from the state.”

“He consistently has all clients and staff in the forefront of his actions.”

“Ray has moved IA forward with great skill, all the while focusing on providing the highest quality services possible to the individuals and families served by IA. He cares deeply about the people IA supports. Ray deserves wide recognition for his work — both locally and his strong advocacy efforts for people with disabilities at the state level.”

“Ray has shown great leadership in ensuring my son — and many other local individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism — receive high quality services every day. It means so much to our family.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. A leader befitting the award’s namesake.

Congratulations to Ray Nagel for being named the 2024 Joshua L. Chamberlain Award winner.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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