In the not-too-distant future I predict the USS Olympia Snowe will be christened along the Kennebec River in Bath as the newest destroyer in the U.S. Navy.

Aptly nicknamed the “Nor’easter,” by her crew, the warship will be four times longer and have a 30-knot speed advantage over the biggest monument bearing Snowe’s name thus far – the world record-breaking, 122-foot-tall snowwoman built in Bethel in 2008.

And not to worry, Gov. McKernan, I checked. The Navy and the nation can pay tribute to your wife and her service while she is very much among the living.

Many paying tribute to Sen. Snowe’s career are rightly focusing on her legacy accomplishments. The elections she won, the ground she broke and her many legislative successes in Washington are the reasons why schools, highways and naval vessels will be named for our outgoing senator.

But for thousands of Mainers, Snowe had a much more personal impact. Theirs is the story I want to share today along with a tribute to the dedicated public servants who touched and changed lives as members of  Snowe’s state office staff.

Peter Morin, Kim Rohn, Diane Jackson, Renee Goodwin, Cheryl Leeman, Mark Kontio, Sharon Campbell and many others who have served in Snowe’s six state offices will never see their names in the Congressional Record or emblazoned on a naval vessel.

Nevertheless, they are very much a part of Snowe’s political legacy and deserve our thanks for their years of service.

As caseworkers and regional representatives, the senator’s staff has served as liaisons between Maine citizens and the federal government.

Gail Kelly is Snowe’s outgoing state director. She got her start with the senator as the office manager for her first congressional re-election campaign in 1980. In March of 1987, she joined the then-congresswoman’s state staff and has been with her ever since.

Kelly loved the opportunity she had on Snowe’s staff to “fix what is wrong” for her fellow Mainers. With thousands of requests for assistance coming into each of Snowe’s six state offices every year, she and her colleagues had plenty of opportunity.

Kelly tells of one case the Presque Isle office worked for six years involving a veteran who had been denied benefits. Just resolved this year, the veteran received a very large retroactive settlement and the eligibility he deserves moving forward.

Fixing this wrong is an accomplishment that changes the life for one veteran and his family. It never would have been resolved in the veteran’s favor were it not for the commitment and professionalism of the senator’s staff.

Sometimes solving a problem for a constituent is as simple as getting an agency to consider all the facts – no matter how small.

After the flood of 1987, a veteran in his 70s got some help from FEMA to repair the damage to his home.

Noting the presence of  cobwebs in the area of the rehab, a FEMA inspector concluded that the repairs happened long before the flood, and demanded a return of the repair money.

Kelly got on the phone with a spider expert at the University of Maine and learned how quickly a web can be spun. She presented the information to FEMA and suggested in strong terms that the agency leave this elderly veteran alone.

They did.

Snowe’s state staff has also played a leading role in assisting Maine-based communities and organizations in their dealings with the agencies and programs of the federal government.

One of the best examples of this leadership is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

A longtime champion of the program in Washington, Snowe has relied on her staff to help make the case for the program and work with local agencies to ensure that resources reach those most in need.

Last January, Snowe’s staff worked with Barbara Crider, executive director of York County Community Action, to host a meeting for Snowe to hear from community members who have come to rely on LIHEAP.

The story of one mother whose family of five had no money for heat brought tears to the eyes of all in attendance, a renewed commitment to fight for LIHEAP funding, and a hug of support between a mom in need and one of America’s most powerful women.

Reflecting on the impact of Snowe’s career, Crider suggests “there are thousands of Mainers whose lives have been made a little easier because of Sen. Snowe’s tenacity and leadership.”

That is very high praise for Snowe and her career in public service.

Much of this credit should be shared with the dedicated members of her staff who have contributed so much to her success.

I am sure Sen. Snowe would agree.

Dan Demeritt is a Republican political consultant and public relations specialist. He is a former campaign aide and communications director for Gov. Paul LePage. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @demerittdan

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