March 30, 2012

Portland mayor hitches ride with the president

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – For Mayor Michael Brennan, Friday was a day that started off great and just got better.

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President Obama greets well-wishers shortly after arriving in Portland on Air Force One on Friday, March 30, 2012.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Brennan, who was invited by the White House to greet President Barack Obama when Air Force One landed at the Portland International Jetport on Friday afternoon, got a bit of a jolt after the customary handshake.

"He said, 'Why don't you ride with me in the motorcade and we can talk a little bit more?' " Brennan said Friday night. "I kind of stood there and he went over and greeted some other people and then he came back and said, 'C'mon.'

"It was totally unexpected," Brennan said.

The distance between the airport and Southern Maine Community College, where Obama addressed a large crowd at a fundraiser, isn't great. But Brennan and the president covered a lot of ground in the presidential limo.

At first the two discussed the weather – Obama noted it was snowing the last time he was in Maine – and then the two got down to business, with the president asking the mayor how things were going.

"I said, 'Do you want to know the truth?' and he said, 'Yes,' and I said, 'We're doing fairly well,' " Brennan said.

Brennan filled in the president on Portland's improving economy and how the mayor's biggest challenge comes from dealing with a Repubiican governor and Legislature.

Obama could probably relate.

Brennan and Obama also talked about how Portland has become a magnet for immigrants and Brennan said that is probably due to the city's reputation as a safe place. The two also talked about the beauty of Portland and Maine, Brennan said, the fishing industry and Brennan's decision to move back to Portland, where he was born, after his family had moved to Florida when he was a child.

Brennan also mentioned that his wife was from Chicago, where Obama settled as an adult, and his father-in-law was a judge in the Illinois city.

"He was very congenial, he was very easy to talk with and and he was relaxed and very upbeat," Brennan said.

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