Over the years I worked with lots of admirable people, many of whom became my friends. Even if we disagreed on an issue, we worked together in a friendly manner. I want to tell you about some of those people today.

Let’s start with the characteristics that I found in each of these people. They were dedicated to our state and its people, focused on you and your needs. They were friendly with a good sense of humor. They understood that compromise is often needed to get things done, but nevertheless were strong advocates for their positions and initiatives. Some actually started out as my enemy and eventually became my friend. Yes, that can happen.

My lifelong career in politics exposed me to both great and despicable people, but I was very lucky to have worked for and with so many admirable politicians, starting with Bill Cohen. My first paid political job was in 1972 as Bill’s driver and personal aide in his first campaign for Congress.

And working for eight years with Congressman Dave Emery, who was really focused on helping Mainers, and exposed me to some amazing and inspirational national leaders, especially Sen. Edmund Muskie. Olympia Snowe was another one that I greatly admired.

Having hung out at the Legislature for 45 years, I worked with many wonderful legislators, ranging from Senate President Joe Sewall, a Republican, to Hannah Pingree, a Democrat. I had lots of favorite legislators who were nonpartisan and very effective. My favorite governor was Angus King, who has a really good sense of humor and serves us for all the right reasons.

My friend Harry Vanderweide greatly influenced my life, hiring me in 1977 to write a column for the Maine Sportsman, my first paid writing assignment. And I still write for them today. Later Harry recruited me as his cohost on our TV talk show “Wildfire,” without question one of my all-time favorite jobs. Harry’s passion for hunting and fishing continues to inspire me, as does his dedication to wildlife conservation.

Gene LeTourneau, who wrote about hunting and fishing every day for 50 years in central and southern Maine newspapers, has always been my inspiration. I feel really privileged to have known Gene.

During my 18 years at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I was blessed with many outstanding board members. And during that time my board presidents, Edie Cronk and Jim Gorman, were very good leaders and friends.

I worked with many fish and wildlife commissioners, and my favorites were Bill Vail and Bucky Owen. Bill’s second-floor office door was always open and he welcomed anyone to stop by. My dad would go in every once in a while just to chat with Bill. Today the door to the department’s second floor is locked and you must check in downstairs and wear a badge to get in.

Bucky came to us as a former professor at the University of Maine. He really didn’t know much about politics, which turned out to be a blessing because he accomplished a great deal, not knowing that he couldn’t.

My favorite outdoor reporter was Roberta Scruggs, but we got off to a difficult start. I was introduced to her at the Portland Press Herald. She was wearing a fancy dress, not something that would work in the outdoors, and the first thing she asked me was, “What is the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine?” Yikes! But I quickly grew to admire Roberta’s work, as well as the fact that the Press Herald allowed her to report on outdoor news full time.

Outside the political arena, one of the people I most admired was Russ Libby, who created the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ Association. Tragically Russ died far too early and is still missed.

I will close with one of my favorite stories. When Roxanne Quimby started buying up huge parcels of land and banning hunting and snowmobiling and closing roads, I created the “Ban Roxanne” bumper sticker. It was very popular in the north country.

Then Roxanne’s son, Lucas St.Clair, arrived to become the chief advocate for creating a national park or monument on their land north of Baxter Park. Lucas came to my house, unfolded his maps, and asked me what I wanted. And he did everything I asked. We became good friends, and I became an advocate for his project.

Most amazing, Roxanne and I became friends. Yes, this can happen if you keep an open mind and try to work with everyone.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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