State Rep. Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford has been chosen to serve as Assistant House Majority Leader. FILE PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — When State Rep. Ryan Fecteau, now his party’s assistant majority leader, was first elected to the Maine Legislature in 2014, one priority he had was making a statewide investment in career and technical education.

Re-elected to Maine House District 11 two weeks ago, Fecteau said that issue remains on his priority list. He said he plans to propose a $40 million bond to upgrade the physical infrastructure and equipment at the state’s 27 career and technical centers and regions.

While Sanford is sporting a new combined high school and regional technical center, stand-alone career and technical centers have been “a bit forgotten,” said Fecteau.

As well, regionally and statewide, Fecteau said workforce development is a priority.

He said Pratt & Whitney, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and smaller companies in the Biddeford Industrial Park, for example, are all experiencing workforce issues as longtime employees are set to retire.

“We need to really start to hone in on how we can tackle this,” said Fecteau. He said part of that conversation will be about student loan debt as young people choose to live elsewhere where they can earn more money, at least in part because they have accumulated debt.

Another part of the conversation is likely to be about getting people who are unemployed — because of a variety of reasons, whether it be incarceration, substance abuse disorder or other reasons — in a position to work. Fecteau said he hopes to find a way for Maine’s three workforce agencies to be able to provide resume building, job coaching and other skills to those who need them. In January, the Maine State Workforce Board voted to support Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to require regional workforce agencies to devote 70 percent of their federal funds to job training. That requirement, Fecteau said, leaves little funding for the regional agencies to devote to getting people ready to work.

The third-term state legislator was chosen as his party’s assistant majority leader on Friday. Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland was elected House Majority Leader. Fecteau ran against Rep. Benjamin Collings of Portland, a second-term legislator, for the position.

Previous Biddeford legislators have served in leadership roles in the Maine Senate — Dennis “Duke” Dutremble was Senate President in 1993 and 1994 and Peter Farley served in a leadership role in 1957 and 1958. However, Fecteau is only the second Biddeford legislator to hold the position in the Maine House — the first was in the 1930s.

Twenty-six-year-old Fecteau isn’t the youngest legislator to serve in a leadership role. That honor goes to Rep. Harold “Trey” Stewart, 24, of Presque Isle, who won a second term on Nov. 6, and was chosen as assistant minority leader by the House Republican Caucus..

Democratic Sen. Susan Deschambault, who represents Biddeford along with the towns of Alfred, Arundel, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman, said Fecteau is a hard worker and that his leadership position will benefit the entire York County region.

“They gave him the nod because he deserves it,” said Deschambault, who recalled Fecteau’s work on the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Economic Development and Research Committee that dealt with bills like Maine’s minimum wage law.

“He works hard,” she said. “You can see it. It’s called leadership for a reason. He’ll be a catalyst for a lot of things that could benefit the Biddeford and Saco region — not just economics.”

“I am humbled, excited, and grateful to my colleagues for entrusting me with this responsibility,” said Fecteau. “As I shared in my speech before my fellow legislators, all I could think about on Election Day and now is the opportunity we have to do good for the citizens of Maine.”

Fecteau said he is interested in traveling the state and listening to employers and workers in every community to hear what’s happening on the ground.

“The Legislature needs to start going to the people and hearing what some of the challenges and solutions are,” he said. “I’m excited about the potential of getting out there.”

Members of the 129th Legislature will be sworn in on Wednesday, Dec. 5 .

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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