The overachieving Mills family from Farmington was honored Monday night for its contributions to public life in Maine.

Peter, Dora, Paul and Janet – all siblings – share the same dynamic energy and willingness to get involved, said state Sen. Tom Saviello, a Republican whose district includes Farmington.

They are “smart, approachable – real Mainers who care about the state,” Saviello said during a ceremony sponsored by the Maine Historical Society.

The society honored the family with its Maine History Maker Award, an annual award that recognizes contemporary citizens who are shaping life in Maine. The event was held at Hannaford Hall on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.

Peter Mills, the eldest, served 16 years in the Maine Legislature and is now executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority. He is married to Maine Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills.

Janet T. Mills is the Maine attorney general.


Dora Anne Mills is the former public health director for the state and current vice president for clinical affairs at the University of New England.

Paul Mills, a Farmington attorney, is an expert on Maine history and writes a column for the Sun Journal in Lewiston that puts contemporary political and cultural events in historic context. He has served as moderator at more than 175 town meetings in west-central Maine.

The family’s interest in politics goes back generations. All four grandparents held elected public office, said Steve Bromage, executive director of the Maine Historical Society.

Their grandfather Sumner Peter Mills was named after Charles Sumner, the famous Massachusetts anti-slavery orator who was nearly killed on the Senate floor in 1856 when a Southern senator attacked him with a cane.

Sumner Peter Mills, who was born five weeks before his namesake died, grew up to represent the Stonington area in the Maine Senate.

His son, Sumner Peter Mills Jr., was elected to three terms in the Maine House of Representatives in the 1940s, rising to the rank of majority leader. He served as the U.S. attorney for Maine for 16 years, under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. He also served in the Maine Senate.


Peter Mills – the current turnpike authority director – is Sumner Peter Mills III.

The siblings’ mother, Kay, a Colby College graduate, taught high school English for 37 years and was head of the English Department at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

Peter Mills said their mother set high academic standards for her children and would thoroughly mark up their school reports. He said he and his siblings attended public school, but he joked that they were “homeschooled” at the same time.

All that homework paid off. Both Peter and Paul graduated from Harvard University. Dora graduated from Bowdoin College and the University of Vermont College of Medicine, as well as the Harvard School of Public Health.

Janet graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston and earned a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law, where she was the editor of the Maine Law Review.

U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin provided video tributes during the event, which was attended by about 100 people.


“What an amazing family, and what an amazing contribution they have made going back generations,” King said.

The family is bipartisan. While Peter Mills is a moderate Republican, his sister Janet is a Democrat who has had public battles with Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

In July, she angered LePage when she ruled that 19 bills he failed to veto had become law, dismissing his contention that the Legislature had adjourned, giving him more time.

Pingree, a Democrat, alluded to Janet Mills’ conflicts with LePage. Pingree said that Mills “stands up for what’s right and just – especially in the current environment.” That comment drew a laugh from the audience.

Before the event, more than 50 people from environmental justice groups protested outside the auditorium.

They said they were angry that the historical society was giving an award to Janet Mills, who they said was perpetuating Maine’s “colonial agenda” by claiming the state has jurisdiction to regulate the water quality of rivers that flow through tribal lands.


Janet Mills walked up to the group before the event and engaged members in a discussion, which quickly became heated. During the award ceremony, Bromage praised Mills for her willingness to meet with the protesters.

Paul Mills said the Mills family’s accomplishments can’t compare to the achievements of some other Maine families. He noted the Washburn family of Livermore in the 1800s. Four brothers served in the U.S. Congress, three of them at that same time representing different states.

“We are nothing compared to them,” Paul Mills said.

This is the third year the historical society has awarded the History Maker Award.

The two previous award recipients were Merton Henry, a retired lawyer and political strategist, and Vin Veroneau, president and CEO of J.B. Brown & Sons Co.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.