A retired U.S. Army officer and former teacher and coach at Erskine Academy hopes to unseat the incumbent in House District 80, which includes the Lincoln County town of Somerville.
Steve Ball, D-Windsor, traveled the world while in the Army, then returned to the state where he grew up and attended school.
Ball, whose father was in the U.S. Navy, graduated from Robert W. Traip Academy in Kittery, where he met his wife, Allane, before the two attended the University of Maine at Orono.
Ball received his master’s degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he studied in the school’s Southeast Asia Program.
At Orono, Ball joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He graduated in December 1977 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army in January 1978. He spent the next 27 years and 10 months in the armed forces.
“We traveled around the world and raised our family,” said Ball, who has two sons, four grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
Ball was initially stationed in West Germany with the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
According to Ball, the 1st Special Forces Group focuses on Asia, while the 7th Special Forces Group focuses on Central and South America.
Ball was an exchange student at the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College from 1990-1991.
Ball later commanded a battalion in Japan. He was a defense attache to Vietnam, where he was the senior defense official at the embassy in Hanoi from 2002-2005. He retired with the rank of colonel.
Ball returned to Maine, then went back to Vietnam to build a school for blind and visually impaired children.
Also in Vietnam, Ball worked for a non-governmental organization specializing in the destruction and removal of unexploded ordinance.
Ball said one of his proudest accomplishments was being part of the development of a bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam.
“It was a tough thing, because you were going to offend people no matter what you did, but it was important to bring us back to Asia, and to build a relationship with a former enemy said a lot about this nation, and I was proud to play a small part in it,” Ball said.
Ball now lives on a Windsor farm that has been in his wife’s family since the mid-19th century.
After moving back to Maine, he taught history and global studies at Erskine Academy in South China. He also taught history and international studies at Thomas College in Waterville.
Ball is active with several community organizations.
He chairs the HealthReach Community Health Centers Board of Directors. HealthReach operates the Sheepscot Valley Health Center in Coopers Mills, plus 10 more health centers in the state.
He chairs the Mid-Maine Global Forum, a Waterville-based organization that seeks to contribute to the local community’s understanding of global issues.
“We take our program to high schools and every month we have a speaker at luncheons,” Ball said.
He sat on the Windsor Budget Committee from 2013-2015. He volunteers as a red vest ambassador at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Togus facility in Augusta. The ambassadors help veterans get around the facility.
Ball attends the Universalist-Unitarian Church of Waterville, where he volunteers with a program that provides meals to people in need.
After a couple months of retirement from teaching, Ball decided to throw his hat into the political arena.
“I was sick of how dysfunctional things seem to have gotten. I felt I should get involved,” he said.
Regarding issues now in front of the Legislature, Ball said he is passionate about health care.
“Anybody working a full-time job, we need to make sure health care is available. Anyone who works 40 hours per week ought to be able to get health care,” Ball said.
Ball favors expanding Medicaid, and said the state needs to follow the will of the voters.
“The people of Maine have spoken for expanding Medicaid … I think health care is our biggest quality-of-life and socioeconomic issue in Central Maine,” he said.
Ball said he believed a lack of access to health care is a key roadblock for residents of House District 80.
“It’s holding back far too many people. We have a countless number of people who are working two to three jobs that all don’t provide health care. It drives me crazy,” he said.
“Once we get health care fixed, we can bring back the middle class. As far as I am concerned, we have to realize the impact health care has on our economy and what it is doing to our working people,” Ball said.
Ball expressed frustration with the partisanship in the Legislature, including the need to extend the second regular session long past its original end date due to various stalemates.
“I’m sick and tired and angry at the way we do business in Augusta, the way we interact. When you are elected, you are there to serve the people you represent, and when you do that and do that in a way that is respectful, it reflects our values as Mainers,” Ball said.
Ball said he believes schools and property taxes are other important issues in the district.
“It’s difficult to choose between having a good school and lowering taxes, but the way to build any community is to have strong schools,” he said. “We need to be diligent here, come up with formulas that allow seniors, living on Social Security in a house they’ve lived in their whole life, to have property taxes they can afford.”
On the topic of the opioid crisis, Ball believes the most successful and sustainable recovery programs start in the community.
“We need to use every asset we have – towns, churches, schools – all as part of a combined effort to talk about the problem and take steps to address it,” he said.
In addition to Somerville, House District 80 includes Vassalboro, Windsor, part of Augusta, and the unorganized territory of Hibberts Gore.
Ball is challenging Rep. Richard Bradstreet, R-Vassalboro, who is seeking his second term.