January 24, 2013

Maine Secretary of State picks new small business advocate

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has appointed a new small business advocate. 

Dunlap, a Democrat, selected Peggy Schaffer to become the office's Small Business Advocate. Schaffer, who served as the legislative liaison for Department of Economic and Community Development, will replace Jay Martin. Martin had been selected by Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers. 

Summers created the small business advocate position. The advocate, an appointed position, serves at the pleasure of the secretary of state, who is elected by the Legislature. 

House Republicans blasted Dunlap's decision, saying Schaffer had "no business experience."

Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, said in a statement that Dunlap's pick appeared to be "political patronage or favoritism." The Maine Republican Party also blasted Schaffer, citing critical comments that she had made from her Twitter account about Gov. Paul LePage and a Republican lawmaker. 

"I'm being criticized by the Maine Republican Party, what a surprise," Dunlap said. 

Dunlap said he wasn't concerned about Schaffer's previous statements about the governor or other Republicans. Dunlap said that Schaffer's had the right to make those comments, but that she would have to be less partisan now.  

"She works for me now and this office is committed to doing its work in a nonpartisan way," Dunlap said. 

Dunlap said Schaffer brought a "wealth of experience in state government and economic development" to the position.

"This experience makes her a perfect choice to assist small businesses in Maine with any regulatory issues they have in dealing with state agencies," he added.

Schaffer, served as the chief of staff for Senate President Libby Mitchell in the 124th Legislature and the Senate Democratic Office for the 123rd Legislature. Schaffer worked for the Department of Economic and Community Development for eight years. Dunlap credited her developing several programs, including the Maine Rural Development Authority, Maine Microenterprise Initiative, and the Maine Technology Incubator program. She was also involved with programs at the Maine Technology Institute, the Research and Development Evaluation and Maine Technology Asset Fund.

Schaffer has a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of Maine at Augusta, and a MBA from Thomas College.  

Dunlap, in his statement, praised Martin for his work. 

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