Karen Heck

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Karen Heck
Mayor of Waterville, Maine
In office
Preceded byDana W. Sennett
Succeeded byNicholas Isgro
Personal details
Born1952 (age 68–69)
New York City, New York, U.S.
ResidenceWaterville, Maine
OccupationCommunity activist, women's rights activist, non-profit administrator
AwardsWomen of the Year (co-winner), Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs (2002)
Maine Women's Hall of Fame (2008)

Karen Heck (born 1952)[1][2] is an American community activist, women's rights activist, non-profit administrator, and politician. She was Mayor of Waterville, Maine from 2012 to 2014. She was inducted into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2008.

Early life and education[edit]

Karen Heck was born in New York to Carroll Gustav Heck, a Bethlehem Steel engineer, and his wife June Platz Heck. She has two sisters.[3][4]

She earned a B.A. in government from Colby College in 1974 and an M.S. in human development from the University of Maine in 1979.[5]


In the 1980s Heck worked for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program in the areas of family planning, reproductive rights, and universal health care.[4] In 2000 she co-founded, together with Lyn Mikel Brown and Lynn Cole, the Hardy Girls Healthy Women research organization.[4] She currently works for The Avalon Group in Waterville, a business and management consulting firm in the area of women's and girls' health,[4] and is a senior program officer for The Bingham Program in Augusta, a philanthropic organization that funds health and medical programs in the state.[1][4]

Mayor of Waterville[edit]

Waterville City Hall

In 2011 Heck ran for mayor of Waterville as an independent, backed by a campaign staff of five young women operatives.[6] She defeated Democratic mayor Dana W. Sennett, who had been elected in June of that year to fill former mayor Paul LePage's remaining term after his ascension to governor of Maine,[7] and Republican Andrew Roy, a disc jockey.[2] She garnered 54 percent of the vote in the three-way race, with 2,021 votes out of a total 3,778 ballots cast.[6] Among her accomplishments were the formation of a committee that initiated improvements at Waterville Robert LaFleur Airport, and Community Convergence, a question-and-answer forum for city residents.[1] She initiated the controversial "purple bags" initiative ("pay as you go") in Waterville, shifting expensive garbage pick-up costs to residents [1].

Heck also launched, supported and endorsed the recall of her successor to the Mayorship of Waterville, Nick Isgro, a conservative Republican. [https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/04/09/former-waterville-mayor-leads-effort-to-oust-nick-isgro-after-tweet-controversy/. The recall divided the community and ultimately failed, despite an angry outburst from Heck at a City Council meeting. [https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/03/waterville-will-move-forward-on-mayoral-recall/.

Winery and distillery[edit]

Heck and Bruce Olson are co-owners of Tree Spirits, an Oakland-based winery and distillery.[1][8] The company has won international competitions since 2011 for its wines and distilled spirits made from locally sourced apple, pear, and maple syrup, and is the sole distiller of absinthe in New England.[9][10]


Heck is a past president of the Waterville Rotary and the Coalition and Family Planning Providers group.[4] She was a co-chair of the Maine Choice Coalition.[11] She has served on the boards of the Maine Women's Fund, Safe Abortions for Everyone, Waterville Rape Crisis Assistance, Women's Development Institute, SAFE, Inc., and the Maine Center for Economic Policy.[4][5][12] She has volunteered for the Mid-Maine United Way, the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, and the Waterville Boys and Girls Club, and campaigned for women running for state office.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

Heck shared the 2002 Women of the Year award from the Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs with Brown and Cole, her co-founders at Hardy Girls Healthy Women, and received the 2006 Achievement Citation Award from the Maine Statewide American Association of University Women. She was inducted into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2008.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Calder, Amy (June 12, 2013). "Waterville Mayor Karen Heck won't seek re-election". Morning Sentinel. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Monroe, Scott (August 21, 2011). "Waterville GOP feels loss of LePage". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  3. ^ "Carroll Gustav Heck, 71, Bethlehem Steel executive". The Baltimore Sun. July 4, 1996. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Maine Women's Hall of Fame – Honorees: Karen Heck". University of Maine at Augusta. 2016. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "History of Mayors – City of Waterville, Maine" (PDF). City of Waterville. March 22, 2016. pp. 9–10. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Monroe, Scott (November 10, 2011). "Heck exhausted but excited". Morning Sentinel. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  7. ^ Calder, Amy (June 15, 2011). "Waterville voters elect Dana Sennett mayor, approve school budget". Morning Sentinel. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2016.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ "Maine-Made Absinthe Cocktails at Vena's Fizz House". Blueberry Files. January 20, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  9. ^ "Central Maine Business Briefs". Morning Sentinel. July 2, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  10. ^ "The Tree Spirits Story". Tree Spirits of Maine. 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  11. ^ Hale, John (January 31, 1995). "Sides meet on new abortion panel". Bangor Daily News. p. 1.
  12. ^ "Karen Heck, John Piotti Are New MECEP Board Members" (PDF). Maine Center for Economic Policy. 2015. Retrieved July 5, 2016.