“Mary Adams is a national treasure!” said Blaine Richardson, local co-chair of the Tea Party Patriots of Mid-Coast Maine. Richardson introduced the beloved Freedom Fighter at a meeting in Belfast July 8, where more than 70 members greeted the woman who spearheaded the petition drive and referendum that got rid of the state property tax in 1977.

Termed a “tax guerrilla” by the Kennebec Journal, she worked with selectmen and citizens statewide in what was called the “Freedom Fighter” movement of the ’70s. She sees similarities between the Freedom Fighters then and the Tea Party movement now. Adams spoke in the VFW Hall in Belfast on the subject of “Treasures Found in our Maine Constitution.”

The treasures Adams spoke of were the office of sheriff and the education article in the Maine Constitution, the language of the latter authored largely by Thomas Jefferson. She spoke at length about the power of the office of sheriff and that it belongs to the people through the ballot, not by appointment.

She gave examples of the power of the office in being able to protect the people of the county, even able to stand up against state and federal entities in an emergency. She urged the listeners to protect the office of sheriff. The sheriff belongs to the people, is powerful on their behalf, but many forces are at work to weaken the office and to water down the sheriff’s responsibilities.

“I’m just an ordinary person; there is nothing special about me,” Adams said. Most in the room would disagree with her on that statement. Mary was a major force behind the property tax revolt, chairing the petition drive which put repeal of the state property tax on the ballot Dec. 5, 1977.

The tax had been enacted in 1973 as part of a radical new school-funding law. It was repealed by the voters of Maine by a wide margin four years later. Following the successful repeal, Independent Gov. James B. Longley named Mary to the Maine State Board of Education. At the same time she received the Nelson Rockefeller Award for Political Courage, the first ever given by the Maine GOP.

Adams explained that under the state property tax, the Legislature grabbed the power to tax property directly and to set the statewide rate annually. There was nothing local officials could do to protect their taxpayers. The result was extreme hardship on many Maine communities, forcing them to raise far more money than they needed for their own educational needs. The selectmen of Castine vowed to go to jail rather than send the tax to Augusta. The tax revolt attracted the attention of “60 Minutes,” which came to Maine to do a segment, and when it aired, the whole uprising became a national story. “Local control” was the rallying cry of the Freedom Fighters.

The Tea Party’s principles of today are similar to those Mary Adams fought for nearly 35 years ago. “They are the same; they haven’t changed! The issues are still lower taxes, local control (of our money, property, children, schools, personal safety) and a smaller, less regulated government,” Adams said. The message of grassroots, Constitution-based reform clearly resonated with the people in the audience.

Mary stated that the way to spread our message is “block-by block.” Begin by convincing your neighbors and everyone on your block to take a stand for the principles on which the Tea Party is based. Encourage them to talk to others. Bring them to Tea Party gatherings so they can meet like-minded people.

“Mary is such an inspiration. We hope to have her speak again at a future Tea Party event!” said Rita Horsey, co-chair of the Tea Party Patriots of Mid-Coast Maine.

“Our local chapter is growing as more and more people are becoming fed up with the increased spending, higher taxes and arrogance of our elected officials. We want our voices to be heard at the voting booth in November. We want our country back!” said Linda Hoeschle.

The Tea Party Patriots of Mid-Coast Maine, a local chapter of Maine Patriots and Maine ReFounders, is a grassroots organization of citizens who believe that the keys to prosperity are free enterprise, limited government, minimal taxation and maximum individual responsibility. They meet monthly and welcome like-minded individuals to join them. The next gathering will be Thursday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the VFW, 34 Field St., Belfast. Call 322 9146 or 993 2207 for more information.

Rita Horsey is co-chair of the Tea Party Patriots of Mid-Coast Maine and lives in Belfast.