Gerard P. Conley Sr., former Portland mayor, Maine Senate president and chairman of the Maine Turnpike Authority, died Thursday after a period of declining health. He was 88.

Conley won a seat in the Maine House of Representatives in 1964 and was elected to the state Senate in 1968. He served as assistant senate minority leader, senate minority leader, and was elected Maine Senate president in 1968.

A resident of Portland, Conley graduated from Sacred Heart Grammar School. He attended Cheverus and Deering high schools, but never graduated.

“This guy with an 8th grade education who jumped out the window at Deering High School … no one thought he was going anywhere with his life,” said his son, Gerard P. Conley Jr. of Portland. “He rose to become the second most powerful person in the state. He was one breath away from the governor’s office. It’s truly remarkable to have witnessed such an incredible turnaround.”

Conley served on the Portland City Council from 1968 to 1977, including a year as mayor.

During his years on the City Council, Conley advocated and fought for issues impacting Portland residents.


The younger Conley noted some of his father’s proudest achievements in office.

In the 1970s, Conley voted against a petition by the Elks Lodge for their liquor license because their bylaws prohibited the admission of Jews.

Conley was also a sponsor of the bill that funded the development of the former Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.

“One of his greatest accomplishments was decriminalization of public intoxication in the early 1970s,” his son said.

In 2004, then Gov. John E. Baldacci appointed Conley to the Maine Turnpike Authority and named him chairman. He presided over the five year, 30-mile highway widening project, the implementation of the EZ Pass electronic toll collection, and construction of the Turnpike Authority headquarters, which bears his name.

He was a loving husband of Ann Conley, who died in 1992. He is survived by 11 children.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

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