Waldo County works

By State Sen. Erin Herbig | Jan 31, 2020
Courtesy of: Sen. Erin Herbig's office Democratic Sens. Troy Jackson of Allagash and Erin Herbig of Belfast, left, and Dave Miramant of Camden, right, meet with Andrew Doak and Kylie Bragdon at Maine Ocean School in Searsport Jan. 22.

Now that the Legislature is back in session, I’m spending more time in Augusta — voting in the Senate, chairing committee meetings and working to pass my bills. But on Wednesday, Jan. 22, I brought Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to Waldo County as part of my Waldo County Works business tour. We spent the day in Searsport, visiting the Coastal Café and Bakery, Maine Ocean School, GAC Chemical Corp. and Dino’s Pizza. We had dinner at Anglers and then held a town hall at Searsport First Congregational Church.

At each stop, I was impressed (but not surprised!) by the hard work folks are doing to create good jobs and grow our economy. Coastal Café and Bakery owners Patrick and Celine Kelley opened the business in 2014, are raising their family in the community and have a dozen employees. They are an integral part of downtown Searsport, having purchased a building to expand their business and serve a delicious breakfast and lunch. They plan to serve dinners soon as well.

Next up was Maine Ocean School, a magnet high school for tomorrow’s maritime leaders. The school attracts students from across the state who are looking for an education focused on the ocean, whether that means marine science, technology, transportation or engineering. We spoke with two students who said that at their previous schools, their classes and projects felt disconnected from their passion. Then they found Maine Ocean School, where the things they learn feel connected and relevant to their interests.

Maine Ocean School is one of things that makes Waldo County so special, which is why I’ve introduced two bills in the Legislature to support the school. The Legislature passed the first bill, LD 1849, last summer. I will introduce my second bill, LD 2020, this session. These bills make small changes to the law that established the school, but will go a long way toward helping it continue to grow and thrive.

At GAC Chemical, we spoke with employees and got to see how they make ammonium sulfate, an important product used for paper-making, water treatment, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing. The company was originally based in Ohio, with plants in Indiana, Wisconsin and Searsport. But in 2003, the other plants were sold, so the headquarters moved to Searsport. We’re fortunate to have their contribution to our region and the 85 good-paying jobs they bring.

We had a great time chatting with John at Dino’s. It can be easy to take a business like Dino’s for granted, but folks like John work incredibly hard to create great local food. Then we headed to Anglers for dinner, famous not only for their seafood, but also for Sheila’s homemade pies. When my 4-year-old son Charles spends the day with my parents, they always take him to Anglers for fish and chips.

Finally, we headed over to the First Congregational Church for a town hall. As President Jackson put it, “If you’re not willing to actually talk to people and get a better feel for it, you shouldn’t be in office.” I couldn’t agree more. My best ideas for legislation come directly from you! We had a great crowd and discussed the need for reliable, high-speed internet; more career and technical training for our workforce; support for the Maine Ocean School; investments in our firefighters, first responders and direct care workers; and so much more. Thank you to everyone who came to our town hall and to all those who are working on the challenges we face. Together, I’m confident we will break down the barriers to success in Waldo County.

Democrat Erin Herbig of Belfast is serving her first term in the Maine Senate, representing Waldo County.

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