Professional Achievement Awards

Learn more about the 2021 Edward L. Bernays Award submissions here. 

2020 Edward L. Bernays Award Recipient

Michelle Clements, APR
Public Relations and Communications Manager
Portland Water District

The 2020 Edward L. Bernays Achievement Award recipient has crafted a distinguished career in the water utility industry.

She began her career in communications out of water as a Marketing and Development Specialist for Jackson Brook Institute in South Portland. Two years later, in 1997, she was hired at the Portland Water District where for the past 23 years she has served as the organization’s Public Relations and Communications Manager.

During this time she developed a comprehensive, award-winning, and measurable communications and public relations program that has helped PWD garner the utility the highest customer satisfaction levels of any local utility.

In addition to overseeing corporate communications and acting as chief brand ambassador for the water district, she is a trusted resource and advisor to managers, board trustees, and colleagues in the water and wastewater sector.

It’s one reason why she has held committee and task force positions with the Maine Water Utilities Association, New England Water Works Association, and the Maine Water Environment Association.

This Bernays Award winner has received the American Water Works Association Public Communications Achievement Award, the New England Water Works Association Public Communications Award, and the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency’s Consumer Awareness Award.

As the Portland Water District’s certified Public Information Officer within the Incident Command System for emergency responses, she advises the Incident Commander, crafts key messages, and assigns duties to ensure accurate release of information to key audiences. Throughout her career, she has successfully led several crisis communication incidents impacting the nearly 200,000 people served by the Portland Water District.

This professional has been a member of the Maine Public Relations Council since 1996 and is the current MPRC board Treasurer. She has also held the board roles of President, Vice President, Secretary, Professional Development Committee Chair, and Awards Committee Chair. She earned her Accreditation in Public Relations in 2000 and has won 10 Golden Arrow Awards in MPRC’s annual competition.

As a community volunteer, she has given her time to the Androscoggin Land Trust, the Park Avenue Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, and the Edward Little High School Boys Hockey Boosters.

A former Portland TV station assignment editor said, “throughout my career, I have spoken to hundreds of public relations officials and Michelle has consistently stood out from the rest. When a public relations representative has good news to share with the media, it is not difficult to get a hold of them. But when times are tough, many if not most suddenly cannot find their phones to respond to uncomfortable questions.”

“That is not the case with Michelle. Her honesty and transparency regarding issues she has had to deal with in her position at the Portland Water District fosters a sense of trust with reporters. Her interviews are clear, articulate, and concise, and she always responds in a timely manner when the media is demanding answers.”

The current Portland Water District General Manager added, “Michelle is a highly effective communicator who is able to connect with and deliver our messages to all of our diverse audiences. She keeps abreast of research results in the field of communications and public relations and utilizes that knowledge in her outreach. This has been invaluable to PWD in our crisis communication and especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. She has expanded PWD’s audience by learning about and implementing multiple platforms to deliver our message.”

For these reasons and more, I’m proud to announce the recipient of the 2020 Edward L. Bernays Achievement Award is Michelle Clements, APR.

MPRC President’s Award 

2020 Recipient: Sara Olson

Director of Development & Communications

Avesta Housing


2020 – Michelle Clements

2019 – Eric Blom

2018 – Paul Badeau

2017 – Nancy Robert, APR

2016 – John Lamb, APR

2015 – Linda Varrell, APR

2014 – No submissions received

2013 – No submissions received

2012 – Susan Tompkins

2011 – Nancy Marshall

2010 – Jon Paradis

2009 – John Diamond

2008 – Russ Donahue

2007 – Wayne Clark

2006 – Dan Marois

2005 – Midge Vreeland, APR

2004 – Michael Bourque, APR

2003 – Tony Payne

2002 – Kathleen Duris Tarbox, APR

2001 – Linda Frechette

2000 – Judy Katzel, APR

1999 – Stephen H. McCausland

1998 – Mark Ishkanian, APR

1997 – Dick Dyer, APR

1996 – Meredith Strang Burgess

1995 – Deborah Hammond

1994 – Susan Swain

1993 – Edward O’Meara

1992 – Leslie Gall

1991 – Shelley Dunn

1990 – Robert Caswell

1988 – Dan Davidson, APR

1987 – Chip Carey

1986 – James Harnar, APR

1985 – John McCatherin

1984 – Bill Harkins & Kate Perry

1983 – Ron Palmquist