AUGUSTA – Derek Mondville stood in line with his mother, Laurie, to meet the new governor Wednesday night, program in hand, hoping to get an autograph.

Gov. Paul LePage, who just hours earlier had been sworn in, didn’t disappoint.

Derek, a fifth-grader from Casco, said he wants to do two things with the autographed program. First, he wants to show it to his teacher.

And second?

“I’m going to hang it up on my wall in a frame,” he said.

The Mondevilles and hundreds of others crowded the Augusta Civic Center for a reception for the new governor. As Downeast Brass played in the background, supporters and other invited guests mingled, munched on hors d’oeuvres, and made use of the cash bar.

In addition to donated lobster claws, the party-goers enjoyed whoopie pies, cheese and veggie platters. At LePage’s request, there was no gubernatorial gala this year — the ball gowns and tuxedos stayed in the closet — and instead, there was a business-attire reception with a receiving line.

After about 20 minutes of shaking hands, kissing cheeks and hugging supporters, LePage and his wife, Ann, took a brief break to watch the unveiling of a large new road sign that says “Open for Business.”

Supporters John Stewart and Cynthia Rosen raised the money to buy the sign and help LePage live up to one of his campaign promises.

“We’ll take a ride to Kittery in the morning and we’ll put it up!” LePage said.

During the campaign, LePage said he wanted to replace the sign that says “Vacationland” with one that encourages businesses to locate in Maine.

Kevin, Lynn and Lindsay Taylor of Rockport were nearly first in line as they waited for the governor to begin greeting guests. As a marina owner in Rockland, Kevin Taylor said he’s hoping for more reasonable regulations from the state.

And his wife, a vascular ultrasound technologist, wants health care reform. She doesn’t like what Congress passed last year, but thinks there is a role for government if it listens to workers in the field.

“Where they need to start is on the inside, and work outward,” she said.

The mood was upbeat at the reception. Even those who didn’t stand in line to greet the new governor had a positive outlook about the next four years.

“We love the governor,” said Lucia Malinowski-Wright of Boothbay.

She and Sarah Pearce first met LePage in 2008 at a Lincoln County Republican meeting. They were attracted to LePage’s success, after his difficult childhood, and said that he’s plain-spoken.

“He tells it like it is,” Malinowski-Wright said. “There’s no BS.”

Added Pearce: “He’s not going to cave.” 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]