Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series highlighting Windham’s new state representatives, Tom Tyler and Jane Pringle.

Tom Tyler, who grew up in North Windham across from the iconic Boody’s Store, is one of Windham’s two new state representatives, taking over the District 110 seat held by the term-limited Democrat Mark Bryant.

Tyler, who has been appointed to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, will take his seat, along with Jane Pringle, in the Maine House of Representatives Jan. 8.

Tyler is familiar with Windham’s issues, having a long line of ancestors from the town and Lakes Region area. His mother, 93-year-old Arlene Tyler, lived in North Windham when it was a village, prior to the building boom. She was raised in a home where Grateful Bread is located now. Tyler, 65, said his mother’s side of the family goes back to James Jordan, the namesake of Jordan Bay of Sebago Lake.

With 65 years in the rearview, Tyler remembers when North Windham was mostly residential.

“Of course when I grew up there was no North Windham Shopping Plaza where Aubuchon is, that was not there. That was all houses. The Shaw’s supermarket area was a farm field owned by the Taylor family,” Tyler said.

Boody’s Store, a general store located across from where Tyler grew up, served as a hangout of sorts. It was there where he got to know many townspeople, young and old alike.

“As a teenager, probably in the wintertime, I could name or at least know the faces and say hi to 80 percent of the people that walked in that store. Now I’m lucky at Shaw’s or Hannaford to know one in a thousand,” Tyler said.

Tyler’s father, the late Ammon Tyler, moved from Portland to Windham as a teenager and grew up in a house across from his future wife’s home. The two married and lived in a house that still stands near the intersection of routes 302 and 115. Arlene Tyler now lives in a new addition at Tyler’s home on Buckfield Drive off Falmouth Road, “and it’s the farthest she’s ever lived from the [routes 302 and 115] intersection,” Tom Tyler said.

“Mom’s from Windham. My dad was from away, my dad’s from Portland,” Tyler went on to say. “My dad was born in Dover-Foxcroft and moved to Portland when he was a very young child and graduated from Portland. Due to the ill health of one of his brothers, the family moved to Windham and moved across the street from my mother. That’s how he met my mother.”

Tyler has lived in Windham for most of his life. For 45 years, Tyler has been married to Sandra, his high school sweetheart who is soon to retire from a long career as the office manager at the Downeast Energy office in North Windham (formerly Don Rich Oil Co.). The Tylers have two children, James Tyler of Arlington, Va., and Julie Files, who lives next door on Buckfield Drive with her daughter, Taylor.

Tyler and his wife met while attending Windham High School, graduating together in 1966.

“We started dating our junior year. The first two years were at [the present site of the] town hall, then we moved to the current location in the fall of 1964 and, of course, they’ve expanded it a little since we were there,” Tyler said of the high school.

The family now lives on a few acres of land at the end of Buckfield Drive in East Windham known as Hidden Brook Farm, where they raise miniature horses – Al, Madonna, and Buddy – for show.

Tyler has a long history of public service in Windham. He served in the fire department for 25 years, was a troop committee chairman of Boy Scout Troop 51, and coached youth league soccer, basketball and softball. He also represented Windham in the 117th Maine Legislature in 1995-96.

“The community has been good to me and I’ve always wanted to give back, and that’s half the reason I ran for the Legislature again,” Tyler said. “I feel I can contribute something. I’m not a genius in this world. I don’t have 17 degrees, I am not Phi-Beta-Kappa anything, but I just enjoy it. It keeps me motivated to get up in the morning and go find something else to do.”

Tyler also has an extensive business background performing many different jobs, mostly in sales.

He worked at New England Telephone in the late 1960s and ’70s, and then at Portland-based Southworth Machine in the early 1970s. Following that, he sold houses for F.S. Plummer, a real estate developing firm in Portland. That job led to a position selling building materials at L.C. Andrew in South Windham, which morphed into a position running lumberyards for Hancock Lumber.

“The day I started I was lucky if I knew the difference between a 2-by-4 from a 4-by-4 since I knew nothing about building materials,” Tyler said. “But I learned and ended up managing lumber yards for Hancock Lumber for the next 20-25 years.”

Then, in the late 1990s, a position opened running a company in Bridgton owned by Dick Dyke, which led to a position at Dyke’s Windham-based company, Bushmaster Firearms, in 2001 as national sales director. Tyler retired when Bushmaster, under new ownership, left Windham in 2010. But the hiatus didn’t last long. Tyler didn’t enjoying “puttering,” as he described it, so he started a consulting business, Hidden Brook Associates.

“I’m sole proprietor and sole employee and I do manufacturer’s representative work for a couple of companies out of Westbrook and it’s going very well. I make enough money to make myself happy, but I can’t sit still,” Tyler said. “I’m not one of those to sit at home and do little things. I’ve got to be active, gotta be out. Bottom line is I like people. I like meeting people; I like greeting people.”

Tyler, who became a Republican earlier this year, served as a Democrat in the 1990s. He describes himself as a longtime fiscal conservative and social moderate and said his conversion from Democrat to Republican was a process that took years.

“I’d been a registered Democrat since I was a kid, so I ran as a Democrat [in 1994] and won and served the term,” he said. “But I decided over the course of the two years up there I never had a comfortable feeling with the party. I’m pretty conservative by nature, especially when it comes to fiscal matters, and want to be tight with the budget and want the state to be tight with the budget, and I just never had that comfortable feeling.

“And I found I had far more in common with the people on the Republican side, who I became friends with and got along with and philosophically agreed with on a lot of stuff.”

In 2012, the Republicans courted Tyler, still a member of the Democrat Party, early in the year to run for the District 110 seat vacated by Bryant. Tyler ended up defeating fellow Windham resident Ralph Johnston, who ironically is a former Republican turned Democrat.

“This time around I had one phone call from the Democrat Party saying, hey, the seat’s going to be open, you ought to consider running, but I probably had 12-15 phone calls from the Republican Party and I was still a registered Democrat at the time. But they knew who I was. I’ve known [state Sen.] Gary Plummer for years, and he said, ‘You know you’re a Republican at heart,’ and I said, ‘Yes, that’s probably true, Gary.’ So I decided to make the decision to change parties, and I’m not at all unhappy with my decision,” Tyler said.

If Tyler had run as a Democrat and won, he would have been in the majority, a decision he doesn’t regret.

“Now that I’m in the Legislature, being in the minority does not bother me, because I’ll support good legislation, no matter who proposes it, if I feel it’s going to work for the people of Maine,” he said. “If I feel it’s going to work for the citizens of Windham and Gray, you can get my support. If you’re going to blow money out the window, probably not going to happen.”

Tyler also said he’s able to reach across the aisle.

“I can work with both sides. I’m truly bipartisan. I just feel more comfortable in the Republican caucus,” he said. “Fiscally, I’m a conservative. Most Maine people are conservative by nature, and, yes, we’ve become more of a blue state these days, but as a general rule we’re conservative by financial nature, and I’m on that bandwagon, too. Can’t spend what you don’t have.”

Tyler requested to be put on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, and he intends to use his position there to strengthen what he calls Maine’s “weak” criminal justice system, especially when it comes to child sex offenders.

“I think we need to revamp our criminal code system in Maine. Penalties on some issues I am not happy with. Child molestation, domestic violence in general, Maine is weak. And I agree with [former state Sen.] Bill Diamond wholeheartedly on that and hopefully I can put forth some legislation to forward what he started,” he said, referring to Diamond’s efforts spotlighting and supporting tougher measures to fight child molestation and computer-based sex crimes.

Tyler can’t wait to get started Jan. 8 when the new session begins. He’s known Windham people all of his life, ever since hanging out at Boody’s Store. Now, he’ll get the chance once again to be their voice in Augusta.

“I look at it as a privilege that the people of this area supported me enough to say, hey, we want this guy to be our spokesman, and I consider that an honor,” he said. “I was born and raised in this town and I consider it an honor to represent the people of this town.”

Tom Tyler and his wife, Sandra, stand with one of their three miniature show horses at their Hidden Brook Farm in back of their home.   

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