Forecaster Forum: Maine needs a governor who can bring people together

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Who is this guy, Alan Caron, and why would he make a good governor? Al Diamon gave us his opinion in a recent column, but I would like to tell you my story.

Many people know me as an “ideas guy” who has thought a lot about growing Maine’s economy and creating a smarter, more efficient government. Some think of me as a convener who has built organizations and coalitions to move Maine forward.

Others may think that I’m some kind of policy wonk because I have a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and co-authored two books about Maine’s economy and government.

What most people don’t know is why I’ve done that work – through most of my adult life – and why I am so optimistic about Maine’s future.

I grew up in poverty in Waterville’s south end, in a family of mill workers and farmers. After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, I got myself in trouble with the law and spent eight months in the correctional center in Windham for receiving stolen goods.

If I had been the son of a professor at Colby College, or a doctor at the local hospital, that first offense would have gotten me little more than a slap on the wrist, and this wouldn’t be part of my story. But I was a working-class kid living in a low-income Franco-American neighborhood. And kids like that are always the ones who have to be “corrected,” while kids with better-off parents have their mistakes swept under the rug.

I’ve talked about those experiences, publicly, throughout the years, and I’m now working on a book due out in January that will share my story, the lessons I’ve learned and my ideas and dreams for Maine.

It will be about how I bootstrapped my way from that cell in Windham to a successful career as a businessman, activist, organization-builder and author. And how I used that time to think about my life, and what I was going to do with the talents that God had given me. I resolved to turn my life around, to lift myself out of the hole I’d dug and to do whatever I could to help others lift themselves up with me.

I went to work loading tractor-trailer trucks on the night shift at the local bakery. I worked at a mill and in construction. Later, I created two businesses while working on a wide array of issues that are crucial to shaping Maine’s future.

Over the last 15 years, I created GrowSmart Maine and later Envision Maine, which have convened hundreds of Maine’s best thinkers and doers to focus on the future, on common ground, and on action.

I’ve been able to see Maine from the bottom and from the top. I’ve experienced how hard it is to get ahead in many parts of Maine. And I understand why so many Mainers are frustrated and discouraged about the future.

Maine needs a governor who knows what it means to bootstrap your way from nothing, and who can apply those lessons to the challenges Maine faces today. We also need a governor who will spend less time dividing people along partisan lines, and more time bringing us together to get things done.

I’m going to be that governor, and together we’re going to do great things to brighten this state’s future, for ourselves and our children.

I hope that Maine voters will look at my lifetime of work for Maine, and my passion for the people of this state. If they do, they’ll find the kind of leader Maine needs right now.

Alan Caron, who lives in Freeport, is running for governor as an independent.