This past week, we were shocked to learn of the sudden passing of Sharon Staz. Though a brilliant power company administrator and a multi-generational community activist, she never tooted her own horn so those of us whose lives were touched by this humble beautiful woman, now at her passing, will toot it for her.

Most of the public knew Sharon as the long-time, highly efficient, forward thinking, and cost containing general manager of our Kennebunk Light and Power District.

Sharon Staz Courtesy photo

I first met Sharon during my first stint in the Maine Legislature. She quickly became my major resource on all things electric, hydro, and emerging solar. She quickly brought me up to speed on the plight of our fellow Kennebunk residents who were being held captive to CMP’s higher per-kilowatt costs and too frequent interrupted service (ex. one power outage in packed Kennebunkport and our Lower Village that lasted a day-and-a-half in the middle of a Fourth of July holiday weekend).

During Sharon’s tenure, smart tree trimming along the line right-of-ways, researching new technologies, and being on top of replacement needs, KLPD’s rare localized outages were scheduled for the early mornings and a notice was usually printed a week before in the local paper.

There were, of course, surprise, unplanned outages when a driver slid on ice or a late night drunk took out a pole. KLPD was not bulletproof when catastrophic wind or ice storms struck southern Maine, but KLPD was always the first, often by days, to be back up at full service again.

During my second stint in Augusta, Sharon was armed with comparative facts and figures to continue the fight against the CMP monopoly and bring all of Kennebunk into the KLPD fold. She had the support of a volunteer local committee to join the fight for our local purchase of those CMP lines in the Lower Village and to raise local contributions to lobby the Legislature, the PUC, and to take CMP to court if necessary.

CMP’s tooth-and-nail response was lies, distortions, threats and blanket rejection. Contrary to what you’ve heard, the mult-national CMP of the late-1990s and early-2000s hadn’t changed from the “No to KLPD” positions and inefficiencies of the 1980s CMP.

Sharon was proud of the men and women who worked for KLPD and over the years with discussions with many of them, they told me that they were proud of “the Boss.”

After Sharon’s retirement, I looked at KLPD’s budget records and I was shocked to see her successor’s salary and benefits level. Despite her experience and clear expertise, Sharon was willing to live with a much lower salary to keep the district’s costs down for the ratepayers. She truly lived KLPD’s mission statement, to “provide reliable service at the lowest possible cost.”

Sharon’s retirement now allowed her to throw her substantial energies and forward thinking into projects close to her heart. We all became the beneficiaries.

She chaired the town committee exploring energy and lighting, always seeking a balance of public safety, appearance, our environment, all with an eye to our carbon footprint and caring for the Kennebunk taxpayers who bear those town street lighting costs. Somehow, she found the time to also volunteer weekly at our local Chamber of Commerce.

The students at Kennebunk’s The New School benefited from Sharon’s support and involvement in their programs and fundraising. Through Altrusa International, an organization for business and professional women, she contributed to community service, scholarships, and literacy projects.

Plastic bags had become a blight in our communities, and Sharon was there at the forefront to ban them locally, which soon led to a new state law. I always think of her and say “thank you,” when I reach into the back seat for a cloth bag.

Sharon’s activism was directed to multi-generations. Her fervent and enthusiastic support of the Shakespeare in the Park for our youngsters introduced them to 16th century William and then they performed his plays for our mutual enlightenment.

She successfully held the select board’s feet to the flames for their long-delayed obligation, after the town meeting’s overwhelming approval of the funds, to relocate or rebuild Kennebunk’s skateboard park. I’ve wondered, thinking back, if Sharon was a secret late-night skateboarder who skated out there at night with a flashlight?

Sharon had homes in both Camden and Kennebunk, but I believe that her heart belonged here in Kennebunk because she did so much for us.

Her condo was on the Mousam River, just down river from the Kesslen Dam. I can imagine her, late afternoons, sitting out on the bank, while the Mousam made its way to the Gulf of Maine or waking up to the soothing sounds of the gurgling river running over that stretch of small rapids.

This brilliant, energized, feisty, and humorous woman stipulated that there wouldn’t be a funeral service or a Celebration of Life gathering for her, so we’re going to have to hold her memory close and treasure how she touched our lives. I do hope though, that Saint Peter assigns her a cloud along a gentle river and neighbors who are in need of good works.

Tom Murphy is a retired history teacher and state representative. He is a Kennebunk Landing resident and can be reached at [email protected]

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