Berlin Locale Heroes: Paul Grenier & Paula Morin Kinney

About this series: Meet our Local Heroes, a special band of folks dedicating their lives to making things even better in the great Granite State places they have chosen to live and work and play.


Paula Morin Kinney and Mayor Paul Grenier

Anyone who has visited Berlin lately will surely feel the cool vibe of change that flows like the mighty Androscoggin River and has not prevailed in this former paper mill city for a long time.

Thanks in large part to Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier and Paula Morin Kinney, the executive director of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, the city is riding high on a tourism wave that will pay dividends of future prosperity.

Grenier is serving his 14th year as Berlin’s mayor after serving on the city council. A former Berlin paper company worker and sales rep at Berlin City Auto Group who is now retired, Grenier, 67, is pleased with the progress the city has made.

Grenier says the city’s renaissance began with the $75,000 purchase of Heritage Park where the city holds many of its events. He says the chamber manages the park and uses revenues to enhance the park’s future.

“It’s been a very healthy relationship,” Grenier says. “We work very closely together. It’s been a great marriage.”

Kinney says the 10-acre park is now the center of Berlin for tourists and city residents to hold weddings and baby showers there. Kinney said the city now holds events such as RiverFire, the Journey to Jericho ATV Jamboree and WingZilla/RibZilla, that pull many visitors into the North Country city, which is Coös County’s economic hub.

ATV riders and snowmobilers can’t get enough of Jericho Mountain State Park, which is also connected to Coös County’s immense trail network. The city has also opened up its downtown streets, allowing these riders to access businesses. Meanwhile, the Nansen Ski Club, the oldest ski club in America, uses a ski jump in nearby Milan.

“We’re all old enough and mature enough to realize that our generation will only have one bite at the apple to make this community what it once was,” says Grenier, who was born and raised in Berlin.

The city also hopes these changes will convince more young Berliners to stay here, work here and raise their families here, stopping the “brain drain” where young people go off to college and do not return.

Kinney says the Berlin and Coös Historical Society is preserving their rich logging and paper mill industry history. “We have St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts,” Kinney says, which is a former Catholic church that holds concerts.

The Berlin Botanist Society beautifies the city and the Notre Dame Arena has a strong youth hockey program. Kinney, who has worked at the chamber since 2009, says the city’s economic development groups are working on a Riverwalk that will connect the city to Heritage Park.

Grenier and Kinney believe they — along with business leaders, the community and volunteers — have made a difference in charting a new course for their former mill town.

“A community needs political leadership to make things happen,” Grenier says. “By and large, I have had my share of detractors and naysayers who felt we could not make this happen, and now, they’re changing their minds.”


Categories: Locale Heroes