According to a poll I haven’t bothered to conduct, Maine now has the least popular leader of its university system of any state.

In late May, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees voted to hire former Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy as its new chancellor, a title that evokes images of aristocrats sporting spiked helmets, monocles and massive mustaches, all of which seem nicely aligned with Malloy’s autocratic personality.

Malloy, a Democrat, spent eight years as the Nutmeg State’s chief executive, during which time he consistently ranked at or near the bottom of the gubernatorial popularity list, occasionally spared last place because Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was even more disliked. An actual survey taken shortly before Malloy left office pegged his approval rating at less than 15 percent.

This distinct lack of public appeal could be attributed to the pair of massive tax hikes he pushed through. Or to several large employers leaving the state. Or to Connecticut piling up budget shortfalls in amounts that exceeded the entire box-office take for “Avengers: Endgame.”

Malloy also increased corporate welfare, an effort that failed to produce measurable returns. In fact, during his tenure, the state’s gross domestic product declined. Small wonder a commentator for The CT Mirror said he “secured Connecticut’s reputation as the most mismanaged state in the nation.”

Mostly though, Malloy turned off constituents because he’s a jerk.

“So much of it is due to personality, the way he presents himself,” Gary Rose, a Sacred Heart University political science professor, told the Hartford Courant. “He hasn’t done himself any favors in terms of his style. He’s very dismissive of other people.”

Another political scientist, Wesley Renfro of Quinnipiac University, agreed, telling the Portland Press Herald, “He’s prickly. He’s sort of temperamentally not suited to the type of work he is going to have to do in Maine or that he had to do in Connecticut. He was very unpopular and had a reputation for being a little bit arrogant.”

None of this bothers Malloy. As he left office, he told the Mirror, “I purposely chose to be unpopular.”

Speaking of unpopular, the Maine Republican Party was among the first to criticize Malloy’s hiring, conveniently ignoring the fact that the majority of the trustees who unanimously approved that action were appointed by former GOP Gov. Paul LePage, a guy who was grateful Malloy existed because it kept LePage out of the lowest tier of the gubernatorial popularity listings.

All this stuff would matter less if Malloy had extensive experience in higher education. But aside from a couple of side gigs teaching at law schools, his resume is as empty as his social calendar. Until he surprised nearly everyone by getting the Maine job, it was generally held by Connecticut commentators that whatever expertise he had lay in the area of mass transit. He was rumored to have been maneuvering to become secretary of transportation if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.

No doubt, students at UMaine campuses can look forward to excellent shuttle bus service.

Unfortunately, being chancellor involves far more than managing minivans. To be successful, Malloy will have to exhibit political and interpersonal skills that appear to have eluded him throughout his career. To divert attention from his shortcomings, he’ll need a spokesperson who can take the heat he’s going to generate.

Mary Fallin is no longer governor of Oklahoma. Maybe Malloy could hire her.

Talk back to Al Diamon at [email protected].


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