AUGUSTA — The Maine Heritage Policy Center, a Portland-based conservative think tank, announced Tuesday that Lance Dutson of Portland will take over as the group’s chief executive officer.

Dutson is a former spokesman for the Maine Republican Party and most recently was communications director for House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland. He replaces Tarren Bragdon, who left the position earlier this year to take a job in Florida.

Dutson will officially begin leading the group on Monday.

Last year, Dutson was a top campaign staffer for Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Steve Abbott, after leaving his role as new media director for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

Previously, Dutson was a Web developer who ran his own web design and search engine marketing business based in midcoast Maine. He got professionally interested in politics after his personal blogging leveled criticism at the Maine Office of Tourism.

“I’d always been interested in politics from an outside perspective, but being engaged and watching one government department so colossally screwed up led me to be interested in the process and getting engaged to make changes,” Dutson said in an interview.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that researches and promotes conservative public policy. In recent years it has promoted the establishment of charter schools in Maine, reforms to Maine’s health insurance laws, lower taxes and a reduction in the size of state government.

It also has been a vigorous supporter of Maine’s right-to-know laws and promoted government transparency.

“We want to maintain the momentum that we’ve had since the organization was started, particularly in the last couple of years,” Dutson said.

He dismissed the notion that his background in party politics might threaten the group’s tax-exempt status.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with a fairly diverse array of political figures over the years, all with the common belief that the more control people have over their own lives, and the more responsible and responsive their government is to them, the better off we all are,” he said. “These are the same principles that MHPC has stood strongly for and the reason I’m excited to be on board.”

He also noted that his predecessor, Bragdon, was a Republican legislative staffer and state senator before serving as the group’s CEO.

Dutson said he hopes to build on the group’s recent legislative success and expand its website, MaineOpenGov.org, which tracks state spending.

“We’re very interested in continuing to provide that type of insight into what the issues in Augusta are and to shorten the distance between the average person and what happens in that dome,” he said.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]