AUGUSTA — John Finnegan started as a secretary working on the cheap to get his foot in the door at Macomber, Farr & Whitten.

Over the next 36 years, he worked his way up to become a partner and president of the Augusta insurance agency.

Along the way, Finnegan found time to help organize the annual Whatever Family Festival, teach at the University of Maine at Augusta in a financial services program that he co-founded, serve on UMA’s Board of Visitors and more.

For those and other efforts to make his business and community better, Finnegan has been selected as the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year.

It’s an individual award, but Finnegan modestly insists that the honor should really be shared with countless others, from his wife Nancy to the people on boards and committees he’s served alongside for years. All of these people work together for the greater good, he said.

“There are so many people in the chamber, in the community of central Maine, who are so deserving and have so much energy and have contributed to making so much happen, I’ll accept this award on behalf of the whole room,” Finnegan said. “Everything I’ve been involved with has been a collective effort.”

Finnegan, 60, moved to Augusta with his family when he was 5 years old, attended St. Mary’s School, and graduated from Cony High School in 1969.

He graduated from UMA, which his father, Fran, helped found and where his mother, Catherine, was a psychology professor. Finnegan received an associate degree in criminal justice and English in 1972, and graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1975.

Also in 1975, Finnegan heard that a secretary was needed at Macomber, Farr and Whitten, a multi-line insurance agency in Augusta. Because of his lack of experience, he started at relatively low pay.

Now, 36 years later, he’s president of the downtown Augusta firm, and a partner.

“I decided I had to make a living doing something and fell into this family-owned business,” Finnegan said. “One thing led to the next and, next thing you know, I’m going to insurance school. Then I got my own office. Then they made it very easy for me to acquire equity in the business. They treated me very well.”

Finnegan teaches UMA students about the insurance business as part of a financial services degree program he co-founded, which also includes lessons in banking and investment.

He said he tries to convey to his students that insurance is a fun, diverse business and to “make sure they understand it serves real people, real lives.”

Finnegan is involved with a plethora of community organizations and groups. He also serves on the boards of directors of the UMA Foundation, Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and Augusta Parking District; on the Lithgow Library Board of Trustees; as a fair hearing officer, helping make sure people who come to the city of Augusta seeking help are treated fairly and compassionately; plays the organ and volunteers in his church; serves as chairman of the steering committee for the fledging Maine Families Network; and jams, with his twin brother, Mike, in the classic rock band Cahoots.

Finnegan and his wife, Nancy, who is also in the insurance business, have a daughter, Shannon Anne, and live on Togus Pond in Augusta. He jokes that he is known primarily as Nancy Finnegan’s husband within the insurance industry.

“It has been an interesting journey,” Finnegan said. “I’ve enjoyed the ride.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

 


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