Just a few weeks ago on Dec. 2, I was honored to be sworn into the 130th Maine Legislature for my first term representing Waldo County in the state Senate. We gathered in the Augusta Civic Center in order to provide adequate space for social distancing.

Swearing an oath of service along with my fellow legislators was an inspiring and unifying experience. While acknowledging our different perspectives, I know that each person was there to serve the people of Maine, and all of us were embracing the amazing opportunity voters gave us.

I’d like to introduce myself briefly to those of you whom I haven’t yet met. I’ve lived in Waldo County for the past 26 years and currently call Belfast home, where I live with my wife, Christi, our teenage daughter and Christi’s mom. My wife and I are both educators — I work at University of Maine at Augusta as an academic and career adviser, and Christi is a teacher at Searsport High School. In my spare time, I volunteer in local theater including Searsport District High School’s Theater Department, and in normal years, love to curl at the Belfast Curling Club.

I ran for office because I know that Waldo County needs a strong advocate in Augusta. For far too long our rural communities have been forgotten in government. We need someone who will strengthen our rural economies, champion increased access to affordable broadband, bring down the costs of health care and support all members of our community, whether it’s our teachers, seniors, business owners, workers or students. I am looking forward to representing you and bringing your voices to Augusta.

Our new legislative session will begin in the new year, but I’ve already gotten to work meeting with and listening to people here in Waldo County. Each day I hear from folks just how difficult it has been this past year. I know that the challenges before us are daunting. So many of us are working harder than ever to come up with creative solutions just to get by, whether it’s parents navigating work, remote learning and child care, teachers coping with hybrid and virtual learning, people taking on extra jobs to make up for lost work hours, or small business owners pivoting to deliver services in new ways just to make ends meet. These problems are at the forefront of my mind as we begin this legislative session.

I will also be chairing the Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business, which addresses a wide range of issues including supporting Maine’s workforce, strengthening local businesses and encouraging economic development. Reinvigorating our struggling local economies and supporting workers is central to supporting our way of life here in Waldo County, and I am excited to get to work.

In addition, I will serve on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, which stewards many of our heritage industries and passions including hunting, freshwater fishing, trapping and other outdoor pursuits.

Similar to swearing-in day, committee work and public hearings will look different this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In order to keep legislators, staff and the public safe, we voted to change the rules regarding public hearings before committees. Now, for the first time ever, you will be able to provide testimony via phone or videoconference, as well as by submitting written testimony online.

I am excited about this change and what it means for your access to the Legislature. Instead of driving all the way to Augusta to speak for just a few minutes on a bill, you will have the opportunity to participate from your own home. This means there’s no more need for you to take time off from work or school, find a babysitter or pay for gas. I’m excited to think about the broad range of perspectives that will be brought into our discussions.

This year hasn’t been easy for anyone, and there is no doubt that we will encounter some problems as we conduct legislative business this way for the first time. But I promise to you that we won’t let it affect the quality of the work we do or the access you have to your legislators and the legislative process.

If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at chip.curry@ legislature.maine.gov or call my office at 287-1515.

Sen. Glenn "Chip" Curry, D-Belfast, is serving his first term in the Maine Legislature. He represents District 11, which includes all of Waldo County.