AUGUSTA — Farmington Democrat Janet Mills, the first female governor in Maine’s history, began her second four-year term after taking the oath of office Wednesday only hours after signing an emergency $473 million heating and energy relief bill into law.

In her inaugural address, Mills urged Mainers to be hopeful. She quoted artist Charlie Hewitt, creator of the colorful “hopeful” neon signs that have been popping up in several Maine cities, who said being hopeful is not a gift, but a challenge that requires action and commitment.

“There is hope for the future, just as it was hope that saw us through troubled times in the past,” Mills told the crowd of about 2,500 gathered in the Augusta Civic Center. “The charge, the responsibility we take up today is to choose action over acquiescence and apathy, to make decisions grounded in experience with an eye to the future, and always to be a part of something larger than ourselves.”

Mills, 74, defeated former two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a Lewiston native who left office because of term limits, by almost 13 percentage points. Mills received the most votes for a governor in state history and is the first Maine governor since 1970 to be elected with a majority of votes for both terms in office.

In 2019, Mills used her inaugural address to formally announce new policy plans, such as the expansion of Medicaid in Maine, the creation of a state director of opioid response to coordinate the state’s efforts to fight the addiction crisis, and the creation of a state office of innovation and the future.

But Mills used her second inaugural address to tout her first-term successes instead, including a robust economic recovery from the pandemic, fully funding the state’s share of public education, lowering the rate of residents lacking health insurance by more than any state, and boosting the state’s Rainy Day Fund to a record high.


And it happened despite the deadly virus that challenged Mills, and Maine, to reinvent itself, she said.

“We learned that neither a worldwide pandemic, nor any other thing will ever isolate our hearts from one another,” Mills said. “We have found such strength within ourselves we didn’t know we had … and we have come through that horrific time better than nearly every other state in the nation.”

But Mills also told the crowd that “our job is far from finished” and that “the responsibility we take up today is to choose action over acquiescence and apathy, to make decisions grounded in experience with an eye to the future, and always to be a part of something larger than ourselves.”

Janet T. Mills is sworn in as Governor of Maine during an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

She vowed to stay focused on the same issues that she campaigned on: strengthening Maine’s economy and addressing the state’s workforce shortage, the housing crunch, the opioid epidemic, high energy costs, and child abuse and neglect, among other issues.

“It will be our challenge to address these issues head-on, to continue the march of progress we began four years ago, and to be prepared for challenges not yet known to us,” Mills said. “These are our goals, hopeful but real. That hope is built of the hardiness of a people who endure long winters and muddy springs, hot summers and windy falls. People who endure and survive and thrive above it all.”

On the child welfare front, Mills touted the administration’s reactivation of the Children’s Cabinet and funding to put more child protection workers on the street and support foster families, but she added that work remains to be done.


Hours before the inauguration, Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi released a scathing report that found the state’s child welfare system continues to fall short, citing substantial issues with more than half the child welfare cases it reviewed over a one-year span from 2021 to 2022.

Mills also touted first-term advances in state-tribal relations, such as enactment of strict water quality standards for rivers with sustenance fishing, expanded tribal court prosecutions of domestic violence and new tribal revenue sources, and exclusive rights to online sports betting.

She made no mention of the tribal sovereignty bill, however, which died on the appropriations table after lawmakers realized they lacked enough votes to overcome Mills’ promised veto. It’s an issue that will come up again this session, as both tribes and lawmakers vow to try again.

The address included emotional moments, such as when a choked-up Mills thanked lawmakers for passing heating relief; historical nuggets, noting that Maine’s first female lawmaker, Dora Pinkham of Fort Kent, was sworn in exactly 100 years earlier; and a few good laughs about Moxie and Elon Musk.

Mills finished with what her now deceased husband, Stan, used to say every morning: “The best is yet to come!”


A smiling Mills, who wore L.L. Bean boots under her white pantsuit, was sworn in by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, stumbling a bit when she swore allegiance to the Constitution. The oath followed an inauguration ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance, as well as a multicultural array of poets and musical performers.

Julia Bouwsma, Maine’s poet laureate, and Richard Blanco, a Maine poet who was the first immigrant, Latino, and gay person to read at a presidential inauguration, read original works of poetry. Musical performers ranged from singer-songwriter Dave Mallett and his brothers to the Sockalexis Family Singers of the Penobscot Nation.

Lawmakers arrived at the ceremony Wednesday night after voting hours earlier to pass Mills’ emergency winter heating relief package. The Senate voted 24-10 in favor of the bill and the House voted 114-29 for passage after rejecting several attempts to amend it.

Mills signed the bill Wednesday afternoon as the musical guests began arriving at the Civic Center. The bill includes a round of $450 checks that will be issued to roughly 880,000 income-eligible taxpayers starting at the end of January. All of the checks should be issued by the end of March.

The inauguration was open to the public. An invite-only inaugural celebration will take place Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. Mills has raised more than $250,000 to cover inaugural costs, according to a report released by her Transition and Inaugural Committee on Tuesday.

Mills spent about $200,000 on her 2019 inauguration, which was also held at the Civic Center, but it took her campaign almost a year to settle up with the city-owned venue because the amount owed was $60,000 more than originally quoted.

The unexpected overage required the Mills campaign to conduct additional, post-deadline fundraising 10 months past the legal deadline to do so, which resulted in a $2,000 fine from the ethics commission under a 2015 law on inaugural finances.

Related Headlines

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.