South Portland City Councilor Linda Cohen was sworn in Wednesday as incoming president of the Maine Municipal Association during its annual conference in Augusta.

Cohen will replace Laurie Smith, town manager of Kennebunkport, when the executive committee of the MMA changes ranks in January.

Cohen is a former city clerk in South Portland and Portland who led her fellow councilors as mayor in 2015. She also has headed the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association and the New England Association of City and Town Clerks.

The MMA represents Maine’s 490 municipalities, providing members with educational services, legislative lobbying, legal guidance, personnel advisory assistance and group insurance self-funded programs.

In her inaugural address, Cohen said she plans to continue the association’s efforts to improve municipal efficiency and outreach, including a statewide campaign to attract people to local government service.

She also hopes to improve relations between the association and Gov. Paul LePage, who has called the MMA the “Maine Middleman Association” and accused it of protecting local officials at the expense of local taxpayers.

“Call me a dreamer or a Pollyanna, but I want to forge a relationship between (the) MMA and the Blaine House,” Cohen said. “Maybe it has never been where we would like it to be, but we cannot stop trying. Let’s try to push past the them-and-us attitude that exists and find a way to work collaboratively. Let’s work to be at the table, and let’s focus on offering solutions.”

Also sworn in Wednesday was Vassalboro Town Manager Mary Sabins, who will be vice president of the executive committee in the coming year. Other members will be Solon Selectmen Chairwoman Elaine Aloes, Rockport Town Manager Rick Bates, Biddeford City Manager James Bennett, Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo, Portland City Councilor Jill Duson, Ellsworth City Councilor Gary Fortier, Easton Town Manager James Gardner and Bethel Town Manager Christine Landes.

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