It is now official: Augusta’s outstanding mayor, William Stokes, has been nominated by Gov. Paul LePage to become a new Superior Court justice.
The two men perhaps were brought together by their common cause: the fight against violence and abuse. Each has been active in the Maine Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, a national organization formed to provide support and assistance to the friends and families of those who have died by violence.
The governor, himself a victim of domestic violence as a young man, and Stokes, deputy attorney general, appear annually as guest speakers at a luncheon for the family and friends of murder victims.
The Maine Chapter of POMC will hold a benefit supper this Saturday, two seatings, 4:30 and 6 p.m. at Capital Area Technical Center, Augusta, to raise money for a memorial to be erected in north Augusta to honor murdered children. Tickets are available at the door.
LePage said at this year’s meeting of the survivors, “I find it a most heinous crime to lift a finger against another human being. I can’t imagine the pain of a parent who has to bury a child … as a result.” He added that, “Re-elected or not, my campaign to end domestic violence will continue.”
Stokes, who has successfully prosecuted hundreds of the worst felons as chief of the criminal division of the Maine Office of the Attorney General, is revered by the families and relatives left behind in murder cases, and for his work on domestic violence.
His outside activities over the years have included the sexual assault and crisis support center and state child death/serious injury review panel, where he has been an outspoken leader and advocate for the protection of women and children.
Our Republican governor has made an excellent non-partisan choice in his nomination of Stokes, a Democrat.
LePage, Attorney General Janet Mills and Congressman Mike Michaud, one of LePage’s opponents for governor, all have recently indicated support for funding of a “cold case” unit for unsolved crimes in Maine, something Stokes hopes will happen as he relinquishes his long career as chief criminal prosecutor.
The governor, a law and order guy who believes in personal responsibility and accountability, must see in Stokes the kind of judge Maine should have.
Congratulations to a personal friend on attaining the pinnacle in his professional career.
I’m proud to have played a role in helping Stokes in his other career — politics.
I had the privilege of managing Stokes’ campaigns for councilor at large and then mayor of Augusta. Regrettably, I couldn’t talk him into eventually running for governor.
The last ad I wrote for him has turned out to have used prophetic words: “Bill Stokes, for the people, the verdict is yours!”
Judiciary appointments are subject to Maine Senate approval, which is expected to come in August.
If Stokes’ appointment is approved, he will resign as mayor since a judge cannot hold elected office. The City Council will choose an interim mayor from among current councilors. Then there will be a new election for mayor, probably in the November general election. That will produce a new mayor to fill the remaining 14 months of Stokes’ unexpired term). Because of term limits, at least two new city councilors already are scheduled to be elected at that same time. Nov. 4 is going to be a a critical city and state election day.
As a longtime observor of local politics, I believe that Councilor at-Large Dave Rollins must be considered the frontrunner for next mayor of Augusta. He is a unifier, not a divider, with a positive spirit and passion to lead the city in which he takes so much pride. Rollins is the big guy with a big heart who personifies the competitive spirit of a city on the move. In the tradition of Roger Katz and Stokes, I believe Rollins should be Augusta’s next mayor.
A correction to last week’s column: “The Mount Vernon Avenue blame game pits councilor against utility district.” I should have stated that the letter delivered to the mayor by Ken Knight, chairman of the Greater Augusta Utility District, was not a personal letter, but was intended by him to reflect the position of the utility district.
Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.