Bill Blodgett will tell you it doesn’t matter what hat he’s wearing. He’s the same person, whether it’s as county commissioner, high school teacher, representative in the Maine Legislature, or town select board member. At age 87, he’s lived a long life that also includes military service in the Army and raising two sons and two daughters with his wife, Carol, who never gossiped and was kind to everyone.
As a county commissioner, he is one of three who are elected every four years to oversee the county’s budget and policy. All the towns in the county contribute to this budget based on their valuation. In Lincoln County, responsibilities include the hiring (and firing) of all county personnel except those elected, working with the Two Bridges Regional Jail Authority, hearing appeals over tax assessments, and dispersing monies from federal grants to towns for their needs.
Looking ahead, the commissioners are studying affordable housing because the chronic shortage here.
“It was probably 1962 or ‘63 when I went to my first county committee meeting with A.D. Gray and Ronny Dollof. I was just an involved citizen and interested in government. I didn’t run for office, until 1970, for county commissioner, and I lost by about 600 votes, I think.
“Well, the next year, in ’72, I thought, ‘I’ll run for the state Legislature.’ My opponent came from Nobleboro and was a very sociable kind of guy. So, I lost that one, too.
“Being a persistent cuss, I ran again in 1974 and I won, which was unusual because not too many Democrats ran for office here, and none were ever elected, the last one being in 1912. I ran because I thought the Democrats ought to have a candidate and I enjoyed people.
“I didn’t campaign with any grand plan. I simply asked people what they thought was important and I listened. I was interested in what people had to say.
“When I got there, I learned that there were all kinds of people in the Legislature, from lawyers, farmers, loggers, store owners, fishermen, retirees, and teachers, like me. We had regular sessions, and then you had all kinds of committee meetings outside of the sessions, and I was on two committees. It was a full-time job.
“I’d always go in early, and often I’d look up at the ceiling and think of the people who had been there over the years and just close my eyes. I felt very fortunate. I was doing something I’d never imagined, and I enjoyed it. That’s why I tell anyone, ‘It’s a great experience, and you ought to do it.’
“I am old school. I like to go in early, and when I come home, I’m almost the last to leave. I always wear a jacket and tie. When I was a teacher, when a youngster came into my room, he knew where he was. He knew, from the moment he came in, how he should act. He could choose his seat, but once he’d picked it, that’s where he was. There were never any ifs, ands, or buts. I never had much trouble. Kids knew exactly where I stood and where they stood, which was only fair.
“In school, I never raised my voice. In fact, if I got a little upset with someone, I tended to lower my voice and I would just look them in the eye. Speaking softly is more effective than screaming. That’s true if you’re in the Legislature or county commissioners, too.
“There are always people who come in angry. I never shout. I talk quietly with them. Shouting and screaming just elevates the whole thing. In a low, slow voice, I’ll say, ‘This is not a circus, and you’re not going to disrupt things.’ I’ve never had any trouble.
“I’m going to be polite to you, and I expect you to be polite to me. Today, 40 years later, I have a couple of people in town who will say, ‘How are you today, Mr. Blodgett?’ Outside, they might raise particular hell, but they always know where they stand with me and I, in turn, give them my respect. I think that’s how people should deal with each other. If we did that, I think we’d have a lot less problems.
“I sometimes drop in on the Legislature. One of the rules is that once session starts, the public must stand on the other side of the door, but former members can stay and listen. Standing there, I’m always impressed with the dignity of governing. Our elected representatives have a great deal of control over other people’s lives. Their legislation can help people or hurt them.
“There were times I wondered which was the right way to go, but even if you’re talking about the good lord himself, there would be some for and some against. I have always tried to use my judgment, to listen to what the people in the county were saying because I think citizens serve as a kind of jury of public opinion. Then, I vote according to what I feel is fair and honest, for what I think will be most beneficial to the public, based on the information I have and what they’re telling me.
“That’s how I was brought up – to be a responsible citizen, to be honest, and to work hard. I have no regrets.”