Fasten your seatbelt — I’m going to rush through a series of random thoughts in this column.

Let’s start with the legislative proposal to allow cities and towns to charge a local option sales tax. This is a terrible idea. Most rural towns could not afford and would not do this to its citizens.

Of course, places like Portland will jump on it, and I can promise them if they do it I will never shop in Portland again. I hope Augusta and Waterville officials are not thinking of doing this.

If we really want to raise more money from the sales tax, the sensible thing would be to raise it statewide in July and August only, when we are swamped with tourists. In 2017, more than 62 million people rented vacation properties in Maine, spending about $600 million and generating $112 million in lodging and sales taxes. Perhaps we should also raise the lodging tax.

It’s essential that our new governor and Legislature restore the percentage of revenue sharing received by towns to 5 percent of sales tax revenue. Gov. Paul LePage cut that to less than 2 percent, taking almost $200 million away from our towns and forcing up property taxes. They also have to figure out how to provide more funding for education, which is really driving property taxes far too high for many Mainers.

Because of my illness, I asked friends to visit with me in Mount Vernon. I was particularly pleased in December when our new governor Janet Mills came to our house for supper and stayed three hours to visit with us. A week later new Congressman Jared Golden stopped by for a couple hours to visit with me. Yup, I still have lots of ideas and suggestions for our political leaders.

I want to recognize a couple of outstanding public servants who are retiring this year. First up is my friend Jim Page, who served as our University of Maine System’s chancellor for almost seven years. Jim took over in a time when the university system was struggling with declining enrollments, declining state appropriations and wasteful competition between campuses. And he did an amazing job of straightening everything out.

I was particularly impressed with the reforms known as “One University” that eliminated redundancies and consolidated services among all the campuses. Last summer Jim and another friend drove all the way to Campobello Island to spend an afternoon visiting with me, something I really appreciated.

Kay Rand is finally retiring after spending most of her career managing Angus King’s office, first as governor and then as U.S. senator. I first met Kay when she was in charge of the comprehensive planning process for the state. She got me involved in that, and I ended up helping eight rural towns create their plans.

Angus said it best: “Kay Rand is an extraordinary, able, devoted and serious public servant. (She) left me with an everlasting legacy of leadership, integrity, and character.” Well said, Angus, and so very true.

I’m really impressed with the outstanding job that Thomas College President Laurie Lachance has done, and delighted (but not surprised) that former Congressman Mike Michaud is now on East Millinocket’s selectboard.

I was particularly pleased when Gov. Mills chose Judy Camuso as commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I was a strong advocate for Judy and believe she will be an outstanding leader for all of us who care about our wildlife and great outdoors.

In the last few months I have enjoyed watching some of the old episodes of “Wildfire,” the TV talk show that my friend Harry Vanderweide and I co-hosted for 12 years. After watching the shows on tapes or discs, I send them to the guest.

I’ve also been pouring over many of my old columns. Some were embarrassing! I certainly had strong opinions as a young man.

I want to share one old story with you today. My wife Linda and I and our young kids had just arrived at the Portland Jetport after a visit to Florida. I went out to the airport’s garage and got our vehicle and drove it right up to the front door of the airport. Then I got out, leaving the car running and locking the key inside. Disaster!

Our tiny daughter Hilary started crying as I dialed AAA for help. It took about half an hour for them to arrive and get through one of the windows to retrieve my key.

The next vehicle I purchased was one where the doors will not lock if the key is inside.

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

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