Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart hugs former state Rep. Thom Harnett after reading a proclamation Wednesday honoring his service to Gardiner and declaring Jan. 7 as Thomas Harnett Day in Gardiner. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — When the newly elected and reelected Gardiner city officials were sworn in Wednesday, they took the opportunity to thank and acknowledge the service of two other elected officials who have ended their tenure in elective office.

Before a crowd of about 45 people at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley, the Gardiner City Council recognized the service of former District 2 Kennebec County Commissioner Nancy Rines and former state Rep. Thom Harnett.

Mayor Patricia Hart said both had served the Gardiner community for years, and she read proclamations for both, declaring Jan. 7 as Thomas Harnett Day and Jan. 21 as Nancy Rines Day in the city of Gardiner.

Hart said she first met Rines as a new member of the Gardiner Rotary Club, and after Rines had been encouraging her to get involved, she said at one meeting that she had asked her husband, then-Mayor Brian Rines, to appoint Hart to the Planning Board.

“I didn’t know what that meant, so I agreed,” Hart said. “I really enjoyed it, and from that time forward, I have been involved with the city and known the Rines family, and I have really come to love and appreciate them.”

In the proclamation for Rines that the City Council endorsed, Hart noted Rines was the first woman to be elected a Kennebec County commissioner, and she served in that role for four decades. As a commissioner, she said, Rines advocated tirelessly for improved services for people with mental health needs at the county jail and in the court system.


During her time, Rines oversaw the modernization of county services, and helped secure American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley and the city of Gardiner for an additional ambulance.

Rines was unable to attend the inauguration, and the proclamation was accepted on her behalf by her daughter, Sarah Rines.

Harnett, who served as a Gardiner city councilor and mayor, went on to represent Gardiner and Farmingdale for two terms in the Maine House of Representatives.

“There’s no way I can capture all his accomplishments,” Hart said, “not the least of which is the revitalization of the downtown.”

That work also included taking part in the lengthy planning process for the replacement of the Bridge Street and Maine Avenue bridges, she said.

Harnett’s service as a state representative came during one of the state’s most tumultuous periods, Hart said, and during that time, Harnett was able to build a coalition of legislators to restore the revenue sharing from the reduced 2% the state had been paying to the 5% that was established in state law.


Harnett said the hardest part about being a city elected official was hearing poverty abatement hearings.

“We’d have our residents, our friends come to the City Council, terrified, shaking because they think they’re going to lose their homes because they can’t afford their property taxes,” he said. “It happened a lot during my tenure as mayor, and I remember everyone of those cases and everyone of those faces.”

Harnett said he heard repeatedly how people had played by the rules their entire lives, paid their bills and supported the school district and their community, but found themselves on a fixed income when property taxes continued to rise, and had to make decisions about whether to buy food or prescriptions or pay property taxes.

Harnett said when revenue sharing was cut in 2006, cities and towns lost millions of dollars, shifting the burden to property owners. During Harnett’s time as mayor, Gardiner lost $4.3 million in revenue sharing, causing elected officials to scramble to continue to provide services and hold the line on taxes.

When he ran for the District 83 seat, Harnett said he did it on the promise he would restore revenue sharing to its statutory amount.

“If I am going to point to one thing I am proud of,” he said, “it’s that I kept my promise.

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