Mainers voted for change on Tuesday, but whether it becomes the change they were seeking depends entirely on what happens next. While campaigns absorb an enormous amount of public attention — and money — they only set the stage for the hard work of governing.

And after eight years of the most confrontational governor Maine has ever seen, there’s a strong appetite for returning to the state’s mostly consensual style of governance. With any luck, we will not see hundreds of vetoes, lines drawn in the sand over any and all issues — or a state government shutdown.

For now, Democrats have been entrusted with the governorship — the first time a woman has ever served in the post — and solid majorities in the House and Senate. Janet Mills has all the experience and the savvy needed to do the job, but she will need a lot of help.

And this is where the special status of being a state capital comes in. Augusta shed its mill town image long before most other Maine cities, yet it has not exactly embraced what it actually is — a company town where the largest company is state government.

Despite recent success in attracting retailers from national chains, Augusta’s destiny remains tied to government employment — state, county and municipal — and the various associations, nonprofits and trade organization capitals generate. That’s the reality.

So the Augusta legislative delegation bears particular responsibility for mediating between the overall interests of state government and the city in which its major functions are carried out. At times, it has worked very well.

Perhaps the high point of the relationship was when Bennett Katz, the Senate majority leader who’d started on the city council, convinced his fellow legislators to expand a planned continuing education program into the University of Maine at Augusta campus, the only time an independent branch has been added to the original land grant university in Orono and the five teacher’s colleges inherited from the 19th century.

At other times, the delegation has dropped the ball. In the late 1980s, then-Chief Justice Vincent McKusick proposed moving the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from Portland, where it occupied increasingly crowded quarters, to Augusta. Planners identified a site — city-owned land next to Capitol Park — and legislative approval at first seemed assured.

Yet the proposal received a tepid reception locally, with an unruly opposition group dominating city council meetings, and not much help at the State House, where the Portland delegation, naturally enough, also opposed the move. Ultimately, the Portland courthouses were expanded on site, and that was that.

There would have been many advantages to Augusta for the high court moving here, yet no one — including the legislative delegation — took it upon itself to lead the way. Instead, Maine remains the only state where the Supreme Court meets elsewhere than the capital.

Then came the bruising LePage years. This is a governor who rarely seemed interested in listening to anyone outside his own office, and sometimes not even within it.

City officials were generally shut out of the discussion, even when major projects, such as the redevelopment along Capitol and Sewall streets, came along. This was a great opportunity to integrate a large though challenging site into the larger community, providing a chance to transform part of the existing 1970s-style, highway-oriented streetscape.

Instead, the administration ignored any such considerations and went ahead with the lowest-cost option — two cookie-cutter office buildings that a national design firm plonks down in cities around the country. The site remains fractured from the surrounding area, and the capital gains more office space, but little else.

Under current circumstances, the result was perhaps inevitable, but it need not be like this in the future. There’s a Capitol Planning Commission that should be revived and staffed as the state continues to replace and renovate its aging infrastructure, rather than leaving everything up to a GSA office without local expertise.

Whether that happens — and whether local planners, elected officials and community members can work together — fruitfully depends, in part, on whether Augusta’s House members and state senator are committed to the cause. Matt Pouliot will now move from House to Senate, and he knows the community and its needs well.

There should be, and can be, bipartisan support for making Augusta a better place — not only for state government, but for all the people who live and work there, not to mention the thousands of tourists who visit the capital each year, but receive little attention when it comes to promoting Maine destinations.

The priorities we set with the new year, and a new administration, will have a large effect on whether this potential is actually realized. Let’s hope that, this time, we get it right.

Douglas Rooks has been a Maine editor, opinion writer and author for 34 years. He is the author of “Rise, Decline and Renewal: The Democratic Party in Maine,” and welcomes comment at: [email protected]

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