Sen. Matt Pouliot speaks earlier this week at his real estate offices in downtown Augusta. After 12 years in the Legislature, the 37-year-old Augusta Republican is stepping down. He said he’ll focus on his growing family and business, and hopes to help alleviate Maine’s housing shortage. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — After 12 years in the state Legislature, Sen. Matt Pouliot is stepping down to focus on his soon-to-be-growing family and their real estate business. But the Augusta Republican also plans to keep advocating for innovative ways to address the ongoing housing crisis.

Pouliot, 37, is an Augusta native and 2005 graduate of Cony High School. He was first elected to represent the city in the state House of Representatives when he was 25. After three terms there, he was elected to the Senate, where he served in leadership from 2020-22.

Now, with his sixth term as a legislator winding down, he and his wife, Heather, are expecting their first child, a boy, in August. With a child on the way and a growing business to manage — Pouliot Real Estate in downtown Augusta — he’s decided against running again.

Some of the time he frees up, however, will be spent advocating for changes to address the housing shortage that has sent costs skyrocketing and fueled the state’s homelessness crisis, he said.

Matt Pouliot, a Republican, right, speaks with Democrat Erin Herbig before both were sworn in as senators in December 2018 at the Maine State House in Augusta. Pouliot, who is stepping down after 12 years in the Legislature, says he always strived to be a collaborative legislator. “I learned to work with people on the other side of the aisle, because that was the only way to get things done.” Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Pouliot said he has a burning desire to work on innovative solutions to add more housing inventory in the state through off-site construction methods he said are largely stymied now by a patchwork of entrenched zoning laws that vary across the state and the nation.

“I really think there is a lot that can be done with innovate solutions through off-site construction methods, and I’ve learned a lot at the State House on this front, working with a lot of professionals, and it’s my goal to create 100,000 homes before I die,” Pouliot said earlier this week at his offices in a restored historic building on Water Street. “That’s a crazy thing that most people might even laugh at. But I feel like if you don’t establish what I call big, hairy, audacious goals in life, then you may end up having regrets.


“At the end of the day, if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the first is safety. And chief among that is shelter. It doesn’t matter if somebody is Republican, Democrat, independent, Black, white, Hispanic, we all really need a safe place to call home. I think that’s something that can unify us, as Mainers, as Americans.”

He said it’s too early to talk about the undeveloped details of his plan. But his role will be one of advocacy, not literally building homes. He said that could involve pushing for zoning changes to allow more off-site construction, which he said can create efficiencies and improve quality, and finding ways to encourage more people to go into the building trades in order to increase the workforce in that short-staffed field.

Then-state Rep. Matt Pouliot, right, campaigns with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Bridge Street in Augusta in 2014. After a dozen years in the Legislature, Pouliot is not seeking reelection. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Pouliot decried the increase of partisanship and inflammatory politics in recent years, which he said is coming from both of the two major political parties.

He believes the COVID-19 pandemic fostered a deterioration of trust between legislators who suddenly had no direct, face-to-face contact with each other and grew distant from their colleagues. That rift grew as more legislators increasingly followed the directives coming from party leadership, he said, instead of following constituents’ wishes.

He also expressed frustration at the behavior of Democrats, who in recent years have had control of the state Legislature along with  Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. Pouliot said that’s made some Democrats uninterested in seeking compromise with their Republican peers, because they’ve had the votes to get their party’s way without having to reach across the aisle.

He said he sees himself as a moderate and a centrist, sometimes voting in favor of proposals opposed by most Republicans, such as his recent support for moving toward a national popular vote for president.


In this December 2012 photo, 25-year-old Matt Pouliot hugs his mother, Lisa Pouliot, before taking the oath of office for his first term representing Augusta in the House of Representatives. Pouliot, now a state senator, has decided not to run for another term.  Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

“I have no regrets, though I do wonder what it’d be like to be in the majority,” Pouliot said. “But being in the minority, at times, forced me to be more collaborative and I learned to work with people on the other side of the aisle, because that was the only way to get things done. You can choose to serve a party or the people. I’ve always chosen the people.”

After his six years in the state House of Representatives, Pouliot served six in the state Senate, taking the Senate District 15 seat vacated in 2018 by fellow Republican Roger Katz. Pouliot said Katz, also widely considered a moderate, inspired him to run.

Pouliot said he is proud to have played a role in a number of accomplishments during his time in the Legislature, including requiring schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, and creating a student loan debt relief program that reimburses students who demonstrate they are paying off their loans up to $2,500 a year in tax credits. He also points to his support for a requirement that Maine high schools teach financial literacy, and his involvement in efforts to encourage civility in public debate.

Pouliot said it was a hard decision to step down. He does not rule out a future run for office, but said he has no plans to do so.

One day recently, Pouliot said, he was reminded what’s so important about legislative work.

He was walking out of the Senate with his young nephew, who had served as an honorary page that day. It made Pouliot recall visiting the State House himself when was in fifth grade, going along with his friend Tommy, whose mother worked there.

Pouliot said they sat in the rocking chairs on the building’s third floor. He told his friend, “Someday I am going to work there. This place is so cool!”

Seeing his nephew on the same balcony where he’d sat so many years ago drove home for him why legislators do the work they do — that they do it for future generations to come.

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