I had the great fortune of serving as Legislative Aide to Senator Lois Snowe-Mello during the 122nd Legislative Session. Of the group of senators I served, Lois was my personal favorite, standing head and shoulders above the rest, despite her being the shortest member of the Republican Caucus.
Lois’ integrity and commitment to doing the right thing for all her constituents, her district, her state and her nation were trademarks of her approach to being a public servant.
One outstanding characteristic, which I will always appreciate, was the inherent trust that Lois placed in all people. Politics seems to breed a fair amount of cynicism, but none of that negativity entered Lois’ sphere, or impacted her decisions. Senator Snowe-Mello had a heart of solid gold, and took what she was told at face value, seeming to have no interest in distrusting people.
Lois served as an example that truly great things can, indeed, come in very small packages. As unlikely a politician as one could find, she won re-election time and again because of a work ethic that would find her knocking on every door in her district not once, but twice during each term. A tireless campaigner, and yet I would be willing to bet that most of her constituents, and those who voted for her, were unaware of whether Lois was a Democrat, Republican or Independent, as she served all people with the same level of compassion and concern. Mind you, she never hid her strongly held beliefs, but shared them in such an inoffensive and loving manner as to disarm even the most disagreeable among us.
One thing Lois did that few, if any, other sitting legislator did that I know of – Lois would regularly scan the obituary pages for residents of her district that might have recently passed away. She would send a hand-written note to the surviving family expressing her heartfelt condolences, offering prayers and any support she could, and I know that the messages expressed in each of those notes were truly heartfelt. She really felt terrible when her workload, as the only member of the 122nd Senate Republican caucus to serve on two different Joint Standing Committees, caused her to fall a week behind in sending those notes.
Lois also finished the Second Regular Session of the 122nd Legislature with a perfect, 100% voting record; never missing one of the 197 votes cast during that period in 2006. This accomplishment was achieved despite Lois’ constant battle with unrelenting health challenges, the same which ultimately took this tiny firecracker from us so prematurely.
Lois also never missed an opportunity to communicate what was happening in Augusta to the people of her district. She made sure that her column, Thoughts from Augusta, appeared each week in the local weekly papers. Making sure she made the weekly deadlines, and helping her distill and fit all she wanted to say into the paper’s guidelines was my favorite part of the job.
I will never forget how proud and happy Lois was when she shared with me that she had entered into the Catholic Church. Heaven has a new Angel today, and those of us remaining behind and in need of the help of angels, can be assured that Lois trusts us, loves us, and is looking out for all of us. Thank you, Senator Lois Snowe-Mello, for modeling a life of Christian love and happiness for us all!
Recently, I conducted a major purge of years of papers that I have amassed. I made certain, however, to save all the columns that Lois and I worked on together. I share excerpts from one of them with you here, originally published 10 years ago this month…
Thoughts from Augusta
By Senator Lois Snowe-Mello, January 2006
While we are still in the month of January, I thought I had better make a list of my New Year’s wishes for 2006. Of course, my first wish is that this year finds us all surrounded by peace, prosperity, good health and joy. I promise to extend goodwill toward my family and each of my constituents.
With regard to legislative matters, I hope this year will represent a new turn. It is high time we see the majority of Legislators in Augusta working together to solve Maine’s complex problems, and stop watching polls and preparing for campaigns. A 2006 with Legislators who recognize that we can no longer spend to our hearts content, that we must have fiscal restraint, and that levying more taxes and fees on the people and businesses of this state is not going to promote a vibrant economy.
Maine is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places on earth. We claim over three thousand miles of some of the most scenic coastline in the world. Our lakes and mountains provide a wide range of recreational opportunities. People travel from all points of the globe to spend their precious leisure time within Maine’s expansive borders. It is simply unbelievable to me that our year-round residents may not be able to afford to remain in Maine to enjoy these natural resources as people from around the world do. Let us devote 2006 to undoing more than thirty years of over-regulating, over-legislating and over-taxing.
Author Henry David Thoreau observed many Maine people during his excursions to the state in the 1840s, and I paraphrase a passage from his book, The Maine Woods, “The deeper you penetrate into the woods, the more intelligent, and in one sense, less countrified do you find the inhabitants. If I were to look for a narrow, uninformed, and countrified mind, it would be in the towns around Boston, and not in the backwoods of Maine.”
Surely Maine people are still intelligent enough, and independent enough, to bring this great state back to the reputation it held in the days of Thoreau. I remain optimistic 2006 will find us making great progress toward this goal. I encourage you to contact me with your ideas for the upcoming year and how to build a better Maine.