On Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats selected their nominees for the U.S. Senate, where they’ll join four Independent candidates on the November ballot. Today’s as good a time as any to take a look at the frontrunner, Angus King.

I’m looking backward and what I see looks mighty good. Gov. Angus King’s eight-year tenure was a highlight of my 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Angus was approachable (I once lobbied him while he was in the Capitol rotunda giving blood). He loved getting around Maine, including on his motorcycle and snowmobiles, to talk with and listen to “real people.” Angus attracted an exceptionally professional and capable staff, most especially Kay Rand, Sue Bell and Dave Wilby. They made my job of advocacy for Maine sportsmen easy. They were the best State House team I worked with during my 18 years at SAM.

While governor, Angus expanded and improved hunting opportunities (more any-deer permits, a new September deer season for bowhunters, expansion of the turkey hunt, and 1,000 more moose permits, among other things), and fishing opportunities (fall fishing in eight southern counties, quality fishing waters established statewide, more hatchery production of brook trout), and worked diligently to enhance game and nongame species.

Angus frequently sought the advice of sportsmen and the groups that represent them, and spoke at every one of SAM’s premier annual events, the Sportsman’s Congress, that brings together outdoor leaders to talk about the opportunities and challenges in the upcoming year.

Angus moved the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife from huge budget deficits to profits, and provided an unprecedented $1 million in General Fund tax money to bail out DIF&W from a bad deficit one year.

He took many steps to make DIF&W more efficient, including computerization of its database of license buyers, the first step toward a modern point-of-sale licensing and registration system. Incidentally, that system hasn’t been updated since Angus left office.

He started annual appropriations to pay for the work of game wardens in searching for and rescuing nonsportsmen, a practice that continues today.

And, something I really appreciated, he followed through on all of the promises he made to sportsmen in his SAM candidate surveys. He always had his SAM survey on his desk when I met with him, probably because he knew I’d be reminding him of his promises!

Angus asked his Marine Resources Commissioner to organize a Saltwater Recreational Fishing Initiative Committee to prepare a plan to improve saltwater fishing in Maine, and endorsed all of the concepts in the plan that was created. He supported strong regulations to protect striped bass and shad from commercial exploitation.

He appointed Bucky Owen as first DIF&W commissioner, choosing a man who was not a politician but a highly respected biologist and educator, and he strongly supported Bucky’s ambitious initiatives to improve fisheries resources and fishing.

Especially meaningful to me, Angus encouraged and actively supported the creation of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Program, launched by SAM and Maine Audubon, only the second citizen initiative to be enacted directly into law rather than sent to referendum. This program has since provided more than $16 million for important wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation projects.

Angus also supported new language for Land for Maine’s Future bonds, requiring lands purchased with LMF funds to be open to hunting, fishing and other traditional outdoor activities, language that has been included in every LMF bond since that time.

Angus also governed during an unprecedented expansion of public lands and conservation easements. In 1995, his team prepared an excellent 10-year Strategic Plan for Boating and Fishing Access, a plan that hasn’t been updated since it expired in 2005.

When SAM and others pointed out problems in the Maine Warden Service, Angus spoke publicly about those problems and worked to resolve them, including the selection of a new colonel. All of this is just a partial list of his accomplishments on outdoor issues.

On a personal note, Angus became a wonderful friend of my family, a relationship that continues to this day, particularly with my 89-year old Dad. My sister Edie is managing the King campaign’s field operations.

When we were celebrating Dad’s 85th birthday with a small family gathering at his Winthrop home, I answered a knock on the door to find Angus standing there with a present for Dad. Unbeknownst to us, Dad had invited Angus to his family birthday party!

That he showed up was no surprise to any of us, because he’s a quality guy who did a quality job for his state and its people.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

filed under: