Shawn Moody fixes dents and dings for a living. And the owner of five auto collision repair shops — Moody’s Collision Centers — thinks that by employing common sense best-business practices he can also fix state government.

The independent gubernatorial candidate said he decided to enter the race after the federal government started giving bailouts to big companies.

“The train is off the tracks,” said Moody, 50, who owned his first shop before graduating high school. “The big get bigger and the small businesses go away.”

And small businesses, he said, are the fabric of society.

“Small businesses are the backbone economically and socially,” he said. “They are part of the culture. Political leaders represent big business. They do not represent small business.”

Motivated people and good leadership, said Moody, are reasons small businesses flourish. “Look at any successful organization,” he said, “and at the core, you have to take care of people.”

That’s why, Moody said, at his shops employees enjoy profit-sharing. Regular performance goals are set and best practices are followed. In 2003, Moody’s was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Business. Last week, Moody’s was named one of the best places to work in Maine.

Government, he said, could learn a thing or two from small businesses. “Government should set the tone and set the attitude. We need someone in the Blaine House who knows the obstacles that people face,” he said.

And “people are starving for strong leadership to fight for what’s right,” said the energetic Moody.

The two-party system, said Moody, an unenrolled voter since age 18, does not lend itself to having an effective leader for the citizens of Maine. The system has devolved to the point where the parties come before people; therefore, a vote for either major party candidate is a wasted one.

“Maine is better than what we are showing,” he said.

Moody, who has four children with his wife, Chris, described himself as a regular guy with the business acumen to move the state forward and the determination not to bend to special interests.

He believes in tackling the roots of problems, rather than throwing more money later at costly fixes. “I believe in early intervention before the fire is burning bright,” he said.

By running education more like a business, establishing merit pay for teachers, identifying career paths and providing opportunities for more hands-on education, Moody said graduation rates would rise.

Moody said that when students are engaged in learning and career opportunities are available, many other problems will be reduced, including the number of Mainers on welfare and the number of people incarcerated. “If you focus on people, a lot of other things fall into place,” he said. “We should be excited about reducing the number of people receiving assistance and providing an opportunity to work and make a living.”

Moody said he believed he was the most fiscally conservative of the five candidates.

“I borrowed $6,000 to build my first shop and paid it off in two years,” he said. In addition, he said years ago, he and his wife took a 15-year mortgage on their home.

He shuts off lights each time he leaves an empty room, and added that he also would spend $200 for a specific light fixture if it saves money.

Moody cited several examples of how Maine tax laws are not business friendly. While the federal government allows a business to carry forward a loss, Maine does not. Thus, if a business lost $20,000 one year and made $20,000 the next, the federal government counts the net as zero, while the state considers it $20,000.

That results in small businesses not being able to use capital to grow businesses, make investments and hire more people, he said.

Moody said Maine can still flourish in textiles — but it has to be with low-volume niche goods that can be produced out in relatively quick fashion. And government, he said, must develop healthy relationships with businesses, and champion and be responsive to their needs.

With regard to making health care more affordable, Moody said Maine does not have to reinvent the wheel, it just needs to look a bit to the south, New Hampshire to be specific, where there are 14 health insurance companies. “Give consumers choices to lower costs,” he said, adding that in Maine citizens have about 100 insurance companies for their vehicles from which to pick.

To lower costs in the University of Maine system, Moody said administration should be centralized at one office with regard to payroll, human resources and marketing, rather than having an office at each site. Tremendous savings, he said, could result in high enrollment and lower tuition.

With regard to energy, Moody said he believed in being open-minded good stewards and pushing forward all alternative energy projects, including wind, tidal, methane and hydro. “It’s an investment we make in our future and our children’s future,” he said.

Moody said it is necessary and possible to have both a strong business climate and a healthy environment. While speaking about how in 2008, the Department of Environmental Protection recognized his centers as industry leaders in environmental excellence, Moody nodded toward a conference room window and said he had just seen two bald eagles flying above the Kennebec River.

On his Web site, Moody wrote, “When we strengthen Maine’s economic, educational, and environmental climate we will fuel growth and prosperity. Maine will reclaim its title, ‘The Way Life Should Be.'”

Just weeks before the election and polling fourth in a five-person race, Moody said he is an eternal optimist. “We’re poised. People are ready to convert their anger and frustration into something positive.”