Soon after Pfc. Buddy McLain was killed by an Afghan border patrol recruit in November 2010, Sen. Olympia Snowe pushed the Army to improve practices for training Afghan soldiers.

Snowe, who attended McLain’s funeral at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford and periodically called his wife, Chelsey, to check in, set up a trip to the Pentagon for his family in October so they could learn about changes the military had made.

“She’s always been there for the veterans of Maine,” said Andy Freeman, Chelsey McLain’s father. “She’s going to be hard to replace, that’s for sure.”

Snowe’s announcement Tuesday afternoon that she will not run for re-election in November was unexpected and disappointing to people she has helped throughout her 34 years in Congress, including Freeman.

“I was kind of shocked,” he said. “We were thinking about helping with her re-election campaign.”

Zach Parker, 18, who met Snowe when he was a student at Searsport District High School, had a more emotional reaction. “I’m completely heartbroken … She is my role model,” he said.

Parker’s campaign against demonstrators at military funerals inspired Snowe to introduce legislation to protect the services from protesters.

For the potato industry, that has meant supporting farmers on issues related to trade, research and plant disease, said Donald Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. “We’re losing someone who has a wealth of knowledge about our industry,” he said.

Most recently, Snowe fought a federal effort to limit the amount of potatoes in school lunches.

“Sen. Snowe has been a real champion for us for years,” Flannery said. “She doesn’t necessarily know how to farm potatoes, but she knows what our issues are.”

That goes, too, for the world of renewable energy, said University of Maine professor Habib Dagher.

“Sen. Snowe speaks with authority and with strong will,” said Dagher, founding director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, whose offshore wind energy project received $15 million in funding from the Department of Energy.

On a smaller scale, Snowe helped the Community Voices Coalition in Fort Kent get a $328,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which initially denied the group’s application for the substance-abuse prevention money, saying the remote site would be inconvenient to visit for an evaluation. Citing “rural discrimination,” Snowe demanded a re-evaluation.

“We wouldn’t have gotten the results that we got” without Snowe, said Rachel Charette, who was a member of the coalition’s board. “She was a doer. She got things done.”

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: lbridgers@pressherald.com