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8/22/2014 11:45:00 AM
Governor Tours Lincoln County Businesses

By J.W. Oliver

Maine Gov. Paul LePage talks with composite technician Scott Alley during a tour of the Hodgdon Yachts Inc. facility in East Boothbay Wednesday, 

Aug. 20. (J.W. Oliver photo)
Maine Gov. Paul LePage talks with composite technician Scott Alley during a tour of the Hodgdon Yachts Inc. facility in East Boothbay Wednesday, Aug. 20. (J.W. Oliver photo)
 
Gov. Paul LePage was in Lincoln County Aug. 20 to tour businesses in East Boothbay and Newcastle, speak at Republican headquarters in Damariscotta, and attend a fundraiser in Bristol Mills.

The governor paused along the way to speak about his recent purchase of a home in Boothbay, his work to prevent domestic violence, and his ideas about how to reign in property taxes.

LePage's first stop was at Renys headquarters in Newcastle, the nerve center for the family business that started in Damariscotta in 1949 and now boasts 16 department stores around the state.

R.H. Reny Inc. President John Reny and LePage talked business and family and Reny led the governor and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais on a tour of the distribution facility.

"I was quite honored that he wanted to come see what we were doing," Reny said.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (right) talks shop with R.H. Reny Inc. President John Reny at the Renys distribution center in Newcastle Wednesday, Aug. 20. 

(J.W. Oliver photo)
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (right) talks shop with R.H. Reny Inc. President John Reny at the Renys distribution center in Newcastle Wednesday, Aug. 20. (J.W. Oliver photo)
 
LePage knew Reny's late father, company founder Robert "R.H." Reny, through his job as general manager of Marden's.

"My father and (late Marden's founder) Mickey Marden were good friends and they chummed around in the Legislature too," John Reny said. R.H. Reny was a lobbyist and Marden was a state senator.

LePage "knows the ins and outs of business, which a lot of politicians don't," Reny said. The business does not endorse candidates, Reny said, but he cited LePage's tax cuts as a measure that helps businesses grow and invest in themselves and in Maine.

Next, LePage headed south to sit down with Hodgdon Yachts Inc. Chief Executive Officer and President Timothy Hodgdon and hear about the East Boothbay company's goal to launch the fastest monohull yacht in the world later this year.

Hodgdon talked about the groundbreaking technology the business employs in its boats, its highly skilled workforce of almost 150, and its new sales offices in Monaco and Newport.

"We're really proud of this company and what we do," Hodgdon said.

Hodgdon Yachts Inc. Director of Human Resources Neal Williamson said the company has an aging workforce and would like to see more programs to train future workers.

The business currently draws employees from Foster Technology Center at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

High school students can graduate with a certificate from Foster, come to work at Hodgdon Yachts, and earn wages comparable to what a first-year teacher makes, Williamson said.

LePage has been an advocate for trade programs. "Why do we think you have to have a four-year degree and you can't work with your hands?" he said.

Hodgdon led LePage on a tour of the facility, including a visit to the deck of the yacht that the company hopes will shatter records.

Outside Hodgdon Yachts, LePage stopped to talk with reporters.

The governor and his wife bought the Boothbay house after looking at "hundreds of houses" along the Maine coast. The house was affordable, it met their needs, the timing was right, and "we love it," LePage said.

The couple also considered other Lincoln County communities. "Our favorite places were Boothbay, the Bath region, Phippsburg, Damariscotta, Round Pond, Bristol - that whole region," LePage said.

LePage would consider community involvement in Boothbay, but nothing political, he said. "I've always been involved in homelessness, in mental illness ... We're going to be involved in those areas," LePage said. "Local politics? No more. I've paid my dues."

LePage, who has been open about the child abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, said he is proud of the greater awareness he has brought to the issue of domestic violence. "The more you talk about it, the more you'll have an impact," he said.

"Domestic violence will only be solved when we men stand up and make it socially unacceptable," LePage said.

He plans to pursue a law to require all domestic violence offenders to undergo batterers intervention instead of anger management or nothing at all.

Anger management has "about a 2 or 3 percent success rate," LePage said. "Batterers intervention has about a 30-35 percent success rate."

The governor also talked about how communities can control property taxes. Damariscotta, Newcastle, and Wiscasset are among Lincoln County communities that will absorb significant tax increases this year.

Towns need to work with their neighbors if they want to reduce property taxes, LePage said. For example, the city of Lewiston has about 36,000 residents and employs one city manager, fire chief, police chief, public works director, and tax assessor.

The towns of Fairfield, Oakland, Waterville, and Winslow have about the same population. "We have four town managers, four police chiefs, four fire chiefs, four tax assessors, four public works" directors, LePage said.

"Home rule is pretty. It's fun, and we have a lot of power, but it costs us a lot of money," LePage said. Several states in the Southeast already consolidate these services at the county level, LePage said.

LePage then traveled back up the peninsula to speak at an open house at the Midcoast Freedom '14 Office in Damariscotta.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks at an open house at the Midcoast Freedom '14 Office in Damariscotta Wednesday, Aug. 20. First Lady Ann LePage looks 

on. (J.W. Oliver photo)
Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks at an open house at the Midcoast Freedom '14 Office in Damariscotta Wednesday, Aug. 20. First Lady Ann LePage looks on. (J.W. Oliver photo)
 
He criticized his Democratic opponent, Congressman Mike Michaud.

"The problem with Mike Michaud running for governor? He has been bought and paid for by every union in America and he's been bossed by Nancy Pelosi for 12 years," LePage said. "How can he come to Augusta and make decisions?"

LePage was less disparaging of independent Eliot Cutler, who trails well behind LePage and Michaud in the polls.

"I think we ought to at least get him up to 20 percent," LePage said. "At 20 percent, I'm in."

The governor then turned to one of his key priorities for a second term.

"This election is so important for the future of our children and grandchildren because, if we are going to be a competitive state nationally and on the global scheme of things, we have to lower the cost of energy in Maine," LePage said.

LePage ended the day with a private fundraiser at The 1812 Farm in Bristol Mills.




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