Barry Hobbins, a longtime state legislator from Saco and currently Maine’s Public Advocate, announced Thursday that he will retire when his term ends in June.

Public Advocate Barry Hobbins plans to retire when his term expires in June. Tux Turkel/Staff Writer

Hobbins, a lawyer, has had a long career in public office, serving 13 terms in the Maine House and Senate dating back to 1972. He was appointed public advocate – representing the public’s interests on issues before the Maine Public Utilities Commission – in 2017.

“At age 70, I can honestly say that I’ve given it absolutely everything I had,” Hobbins said in a statement Thursday. “It’s time for my wife, Donna, and I to decelerate, after all these years, and to finally savor private life.”

A lifelong Democrat, Hobbins was appointed to the public advocate position by former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, at a time of heightened partisanship in Augusta.

“There aren’t too many Democratic legislators who could pull that off,” state Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said Thursday night. “It stunned a lot of people to see that happen and it goes back to who Barry is.”

Hobbins’ retirement “is going to be a great loss,” said state Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, who has known Hobbins for nearly 40 years. “Barry was a great advocate for the underdog his whole life.”

Lawrence met Hobbins in 1984, when Lawrence was running for a state Senate seat and Hobbins was running for Congress. Lawrence said he was in awe of Hobbins’ ability to establish personal connections on the campaign trail.

“You used to have to almost have a crowbar to get him out of people’s living rooms,” Lawrence said. “Going into a coffee shop or going into a mom-and-pop shop, he just had an immediate ability to connect with people.”

Lawrence said he was touched, after losing his race by a couple dozen votes, to get a personal note from Hobbins encouraging him to run for office again.

“That’s exactly who Barry is,” Lawrence said. “He just reaches out to people whether they won or lost.”

David Flanagan, executive chairman of Central Maine Power Co., said Hobbins was one of the first people he contacted when he came out of semi-retirement to run the utility a year ago. CMP and the Public Advocate’s Office have been at odds for years over billing and reliability problems at the utility.

“From the minute I returned, we both started looking for ways to have a more collaborative and constructive relationship,” Flanagan said. “We were always able to talk in a constructive way.”

Hobbins, anticipating that PUC commissioners would likely support construction of a controversial 145-mile transmission line corridor from Canada through the northern Maine woods, helped negotiate a benefits package worth $258 million to the state and ratepayers from CMP and its Canadian energy partner, Hydro-Quebec, in 2019.

Berry, who is co-chair of the legislative committee that oversees electric utilities, said that in the Legislature, Hobbins was known for his ability to both lead Democrats and work with Republicans in the State House, and that may be why LePage appointed him as public advocate.

In a statement, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he’s known Hobbins for nearly 50 years “and can’t imagine the public service scene in Maine without his presence. He never forgot his York County roots and never lost his enthusiasm for working to make life better for Maine people.”


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