AUGUSTA – When Phil Curtis or one of his three brothers wanted to buy something as children, their father — a Madison dairy farmer — asked them to consider whether it was a want or a need.

“We had to justify the need before we got any further with the request,” said Curtis, the new House majority leader.

That type of frugality will be a big part of what Mainers can expect from their Republican-run House of Representatives, he said.

“I think you will see a smaller government, condensed down in scope, and goals and operations to meet the needs of the needy and not be concerned about the wants of the greedy,” he said during an interview in his State House office.

Curtis, 68, will lead the 78-member Republican caucus — a majority for the first time since the 1970s. For years, he’s served as a fill-in pastor at Baptist churches in central Maine, and been a selectman and road commissioner.

He won his fourth election to the House this year by a large margin, getting support from 69 percent of voters in Madison, Solon and Norridgewock.

Curtis served two terms before he entered leadership two years ago. He served as assistant minority leader and was encouraged by Republicans to serve as majority leader. Rep. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, will serve as assistant majority leader.

In his new position, Curtis will be the public face of the party in the House, second only to Speaker-elect Robert Nutting, R-Oakland.

To date, Curtis has not been a major player at the State House, preferring instead to play a supportive role.

It’s similar to how he campaigns.

Curtis drives around the district in his red truck, displaying large signs encouraging people to vote for him. He sends literature through the mail, and chats with people at diners and gas stations. He does not go door-to-door, saying he feels it’s too invasive.

Curtis was born and raised in Madison, graduating from Madison Memorial High School in 1960.

He started in politics while in his 20s, when he served on the Madison Board of Selectmen, but developed his leadership style in the business world as plant manager at Agway Petroleum in Auburn and as operational manager for Madison Electric.

He calls it the “three D” approach.

“Make the decision, delegate the responsibility to somebody, and disappear and let them do it,” he said.

Curtis said the highlight of his legislative career was getting elected by voters who trusted and respected him enough to send him to Augusta.

As leaders, Republicans will determine what government needs to do — not necessarily what everyone wants it to do, he said.

“Our philosophy is very simple,” he said. “A smaller government, less involved in people’s lives, allowing the employer and the employee to keep a little bit more of their own money.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan M. Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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