AUGUSTA — A tea party activist and a Waterville Democrat are among 35 people named by Gov.-elect Paul LePage on Tuesday to a volunteer advisory panel that will help develop policy priorities and evaluate applications for jobs in the new administration.

People with various professional and political backgrounds made the list – lawyers, business owners, foresters, people in public service, Republicans, Democrats and at least one independent.

“We are working hard to take on this responsibility of governing and I am pleased to announce another important step today,” LePage said. “While no sampling will never fully represent the whole, the team joining me today is a very good representation of Maine and its people.”

LePage said he has received more than 1,000 applications for about 150 administration jobs that he has to fill.

“I have asked the transition advisory team to help identify the skill sets and characteristics needed to fill key positions in my administration. We are looking for the best and brightest, without concern for political party or labels,” he said.

Some surprises on LePage’s list were outgoing Democratic state Sen. Lisa Marrache of Waterville and Pete “The Carpenter” Harring, a tea party activist and founder of the tea party website

“I got a call last week and I was happy to offer whatever I can to help them,” said Marrache, who did not run for re-election this year.

Marrache has known LePage for a long time, served with him on the Waterville City Council and worked with him on issues while she was in the Legislature and he was Waterville’s mayor.

“It’s not going to be 100 percent (agreement) but I’ve always been a little more moderate in my views, so I think that we do cover each other somewhat,” she said. “And I think sometimes it’s good to have somebody who might say, ‘Have you thought about this or that,’ and maybe it’s not part of their plan but maybe it might get them thinking.”

Harring, a carpenter, said he is excited to be part of the transition team and hopes to bring insights from Maine’s “everyman” to the table.

“It’s obvious that Paul is willing to work with everyone to get the problem solved. Just by having me help will show a message to all the rest of the grass-roots movement across the state, and I hope that we can accomplish some great things for the state of Maine,” he said.

Harring is optimistic that the LePage administration will bring the changes to state government that he and other grass-roots organizers have worked for, though he professed to hearing that change is not coming fast enough for some.

“In today’s society, people are used to instant gratification, and we’re only just three weeks past the election and you can’t expect miracles to happen,” he said.

Soon after the transition announcement, Harring was criticized by a progressive advocacy group, the Maine People’s Alliance, for comments he made online about liberals.

“Liberals are like Slinkies. They’re really good for nothing. But they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs,” said a graphic that Harring posted on his website in February 2009.

The Maine People’s Alliance called for Harring’s removal from the LePage transition team for the Slinky comment and others attributed to him. LePage’s team responded by standing by Harring.

“Pete Harring is on the Transition Advisory Team because thousands of Mainers share his frustrations with the direction we have been heading,” said Dan Demeritt, LePage’s spokesman. “Gov.-elect Le- Page does not always agree with everything Pete has to say, but he believes Pete has a viewpoint that should be heard.”

LePage said his team has a lot of work to do. He has already decided who will be his commissioners of conservation and public safety, though he’s not ready to reveal them.

“We are trying very hard to identify and make offers to everyone before the first of the year, but that is a really tight schedule,” he said.

“I really am looking for loyalty to our agenda, I am looking for someone who has thick skin, because I believe there’s going to be some tough work ahead, and there has to be a chemistry between myself and the individual,” LePage said of his Cabinet appointments.

More transition announcements will be made next week, LePage said.


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