Editor’s note: This is an installment in an occasional series of columns on business and politics by writers who are not affiliated with a major party.

I was elected to serve as Maine’s first independent state treasurer last Dec 3. What made this remarkable was the path I traveled to get there and the variety of people who helped me along the way.

Eight years before, in December 2006, I was sworn in as a freshman Democratic legislator from eastern Oxford County. The voters of Buckfield, Hartford, Paris and Sumner elected me as their representative four times. And during my third term I was elected by the House Democrats as their assistant leader.

During my term in partisan leadership I learned some things that troubled me. The toughest lesson I encountered was that in the legislative arena, many of my partisan peers on both sides of the aisle firmly believed that the ends justify the means. This belief produced patterns of behavior that I saw as destructive to our professional relationships and to our state.


I found it fundamentally disrespectful of our colleagues. My final term in the House was spent observing legislative leadership, how the leaders interacted with their members, and especially how messaging was managed to those not directly involved in the day-to-day policy work under the State House dome. The theme was consistent, played out by all partisan leadership on a daily basis: The ends justify the means.


This meant that leadership and their staff would do whatever it took to win the vote count, both on the issues before the Legislature and at the ballot box. They approved and promoted misleading claims; they assigned inappropriate blame to their opponents; they bullied their own caucus members to ensure allegiance; they allowed non-elected allies to control policy agenda. No strategy was deemed inappropriate if it would generate the results leadership sought. Winning was all that mattered.

Back in 2008 I stumbled upon the Civility Pledge on the Internet and adopted it as my personal code. It has three simple statements:

I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.

 I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.

 I will stand against incivility when I see it.

I had this printed on my legislative business cards. I collaborated with colleagues “on the other side of the aisle” to bring civility training to the State House on multiple occasions. I had a banner made for my office. I strived to live by this pledge daily (some days more successfully than others).



By the end of my final term I was convinced that the culture of the ends justify the means could not be challenged successfully within the partisan framework that constitutes the informal organization of our legislative branch. This culture destroys trust and professional respect. It pushes people further apart instead of seeking out points of agreement. And, unfortunately, it works too well with the partisan base on both sides of the aisle.

I decided to un-enroll as a Democrat following the election in November 2014. My politics hadn’t shifted over the course of my legislative service, but my willingness to be tied to the strategies of my partisan leadership had ended. For me, the ends do not justify the means – my relationships with and my respect for my colleagues are too valuable to me.

Coincidently, another opportunity presented itself in the aftermath of the November 2014 election – the numeric gap between the Democrats and Republicans in the Maine Legislature had narrowed, making the prospect of being elected state treasurer possible if I could secure the support of colleagues from both sides of the aisle.

I would need all of the Republicans’ support and more than a handful of votes from the Democrats/Independents in order to win.

So how did a termed-out Democratic legislator secure the nomination of the joint Republican caucus for the job of state treasurer? By earning the respect of my colleagues through my actions and words throughout my eight years of service; by being trustworthy; by treating my colleagues – all of them – with respect and civility.

On Dec. 3, 2014 more than half of the members of the Maine Legislature voted for me to serve as state treasurer for the next two years. My only promise to all was that I would not serve as a Republican treasurer nor as a Democratic treasurer, but as an independent treasurer. No one was coerced, bribed, cajoled or pressured to vote for me.

I am honored to be Maine’s first independent treasurer because of the path my journey to this role has taken. At the end of every session, we all continue to live and work here, making our relationships important to our future success. I endeavor to serve all of Maine to the best of my ability, attending to the process and the people, not just the product. I invite others to join me.


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