GARDINER — Philip Hart said goodbye to the Gardiner City Council after 30 years Wednesday night, and Marc Rines, the third generation of his family to serve on the City Council, said hello.

In wrapping up his time as a city elected official, Hart offered praise to his fellow elected officials at the start of Wednesday’s City Council meeting and to the city’s department heads and staff for their time and dedication to Gardiner.

“These people are the backbone of the city,” Hart said.

And in the transition, he offered Rines some words of advice: Be balanced, focus on the city and never come with your mind made up.

“Come with your convictions,” Hart said, “but always remember that one voice that would speak up and change your mind.”

Hart announced in September that he would not seek re-election, and when that happened, Rines entered the race.

Rines was sworn in alongside District 1 Councilor Terry

Berry, District 2 Councilor Pat Hart and District 3 Councilor Shawn Dolley.

In an interview with the Kennebec Journal before Wednesday’s Inauguration, Rines said he saw the opportunity to contribute to his hometown.

“Phil is no one that I wanted to replace or to challenge,” Rines said. “The notion was that there was going to be an empty seat at the last moment and this would be an opportunity to get someone in there that would represent south Gardiner.”

Rines is the son of the late Brian Rines, who served as Gardiner mayor for many years, and Nancy Rines, who is the District 2 Kennebec County commissioner. He’s also the grandson of Fred William Rines.

The route that Rines, 44, took to reach the council crosses the country, up and down the East Coast, and back to Gardiner over the course of more than 20 years.

He spent time as a first mate and captain of boats, worked on a megayacht and he worked in sales.

Rines also spent 40 months in a minimum-security federal prison camp in Oregon after he pleaded guilty in 2008 in federal court in California to a drug conspiracy charges.

“I did my time,” he said, noting that he wears his conviction like a scarlet letter. “I don’t want to say it was a good experience, but it opened my eyes.”

Rines said he was involved in a criminal conspiracy to purchase cocaine; his role, as described in court papers, was to drive the car.

Rines was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of five years, but with his participation in a drug program in addition to time off for good behavior, he completed his sentence in three years and four months.

Following that, he completed his term of probation.

“I made lemonade from the lemons I created,” he said.

While he was incarcerated, he said, he worked in the education department and eventually ran the program.

Both during his time in prison and after, he has given speeches to community groups and at-risk kids, about how regular people can end up in bad situations.

“My felony does not define me,” he said. “It’s a chapter in my book.”

Shortly after Rines was elected, news of his conviction spread on social media, and city residents expressed their concern over a felon serving on the city council.

Mayor Thom Harnett said he has talked to some of the people who have posted their concerns, and he has standing offer to speak with anyone else who has questions about Rines serving.

“From the legal perspective, there is nothing in the City Charter or state law that prevents him from serving,” Harnett said.

“From the human side, I don’t really know Marc. He made some apparently really poor decisions, and he paid a price for them,” he said. “I believe in redemption. We are a country that if you serve the punishment, we don’t toss you aside.”

Rines said Wednesday that he has made no secret of his conviction and that the people who signed his petition and voted for him are well aware of his past.

Rines said he has more commerce now than when he left.

“The community is tighter and it’s more business oriented than it was 20 or 25 years ago,” he said. “I no longer see it as a place where everyone getting out of high school wants to leave.”

While the city has persistent poverty and it’s affected by opioid crisis, it’s also a place where the sense of community is strong.

Rines is a graduate of Gardiner Area High School, and attended Hebron Academy for a year. He attended Northeastern University and the University of Oregon. He started an educational program at the Cordon Bleu at the time of his arrest.

For three and half years, he worked at Major Appliance in Farmingdale, but he is currently unemployed.

He has two sons.

“Gardiner is a great place to be,” he said. “Even in winter, it’s a great place to be. It has a ton of potential and it’s growing and filling that potential every year.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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