This Thanksgiving week, I am thankful that I have had the privilege of serving you in the Maine Legislature these past 5 years.
The votes have been cast and as of December 7th I will no longer be your State Senator. Service in the Legislature is a solemn duty, and it has been my honor to represent the people and communities of Lincoln County, Windsor, and Washington.
I’ve learned a great deal about what matters to people in this district. I have visited homes tens of thousands of times to hear directly from you. You have visited to my monthly office hours around the district; called or emailed; came to the State House to testify on legislation; and invited me to many meetings and events throughout the district. And in-between, I’ve seen you on the streets or in the grocery store.
I am thankful for the many constituents who, during those exchanges, shared their issues, opinions and stories with me. You provided the reasons for me to introduce bills to solve problems or improve our state. You provided the ways I could make Maine’s state government more responsive by addressing legitimate needs for you, your community, or your business. You helped me understand problems that we were able to solve by bringing stakeholders together to explore the issue, the options, and the best way forward. You provided the personal insight and stories about why voting one way or another on a particular bill mattered to you or someone you know. I listened, and those exchanges informed my decisions in the Maine Senate.
With your help, we protected our lobster fishery from dragged lobster bycatch and opened up the St. Croix River to restore alewife runs. We tackled ocean and coastal acidification. We helped our agricultural industry grow, and helped farmers to make a living. We protected our lakes, rivers and mud flats from pollution. We fought for funding for education, infrastructure and research and development. We made sure our communities were heard by state government and that their needs were met. We fought for veterans, workers, small businesses and schools. We implemented a community based response to the opioid crisis. Behind the scenes, I was proud to help constituents on a case-by-case basis — whether it was resolving problems with state bureaucracy or simply answering questions.
I learned a great deal about Maine’s strengths and opportunities, forging a vision of how we can make our economy stronger and life better for all Mainers.
We still have so much of that to achieve, but many people are worried that additional progress will not come.
These are turbulent times, with many worried about whether Mainers will have jobs that give their families a real opportunity to thrive. I know this struggle, because it exists in my family too.
Many have expressed concerns about the hateful statements and negative tenor of the presidential campaign, and whether the aftermath of all that will be a loss of basic rights or freedoms, or a diminishment of the respect and peaceful relations our nation has long held with most of the world. Indeed, some in this nation have seen campaign statements as permission to engage in a resurgence of overt racism, misogyny, sexism, religious intolerance, hate speech or even violence.
In this time of elevated fear and hope for what may come to pass, I know one thing for sure: What matters most of all is how we treat each other — whether we seek understanding and engaged civil discourse, find ways to work together, working for the change we want to see and take a firm stand to oppose what we know in our hearts is wrong.
In Maine we have great role models among our leaders, people such as Senator George Mitchell and Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
We also have great role models among our neighbors such as the self-proclaimed “Heart-Sign Fairy,” who repurposed political signs to carry a message of love in a lighthearted display on the streets of Newcastle on November 10. The anonymous letter I received from this person includes these words:
“We, all of us, need to welcome in the era of compassion, love and understanding. We need to use these tools to not only respect the opinions of those around us, but most importantly, protect and demand respect for those most persecuted, oppressed, and incarcerated among us. Those that feel the most frightened after Nov. 8th.
I hope this note finds you well, and motivated for the work ahead of us.”
Indeed it does. And I hope this column finds you similarly willing to engage in a positive spirit to ensure our state and nation move in positive directions for all. Let us give thanks that none of our challenges are insurmountable while we retain the freedom to speak, to assemble and organize, to participate in civil protest, and to vote. Together we have a lot of healing to do as we work to restore the soul of our nation and the humanity of our governance.