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FREEPORT — The first woman to serve back-to-back terms as head of the Maine Senate was named Freeport’s Citizen of the Year at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Betheda “Beth” Edmonds has lived in Freeport since 1978. A former Democratic member of the Maine Senate, she represented the 10th District from 2000 to 2008 until she termed out. Edmonds first served as the president of the state Senate in 2004, and was only the second woman to do so.
But it was her local community service and dedication to Freeport that was noted during the awards ceremony. Councilor Eric Horne said, “We remember something that has permeated Beth’s career and we remember her kindness: her kindness of heart and her kindness of spirit.”
In 1982, Edmonds started volunteering when the Freeport Community Library was still known as the B.H. Bartol Library and housed in the former Abercrombie and Fitch building. In 2005 she became the director of the library while she was still a state senator. Edmonds also ran story time for toddlers and took the initiative to create a young adult room.
Horne said he was “in middle school at the time” and can remember Edmonds and how dedicated she was to her work.
“A lot of us were in middle school at the time, but we can all remember Mrs. Edmonds,” he said.
Councilor Sarah Tracy said she was one of the former middle-schoolers who learned a lot from Edmonds.
“I am also one of those angst-filled middle-schoolers,” said Tracy. “Edmonds spent a lot of unsung hours assisting youth through what can be a very troubling time. She took a bunch of awkward 11- and 12-year-old girls and taught us how to communicate, taught us how to be strong, taught us how to support each other and taught us that somebody older than the age of 16 cared enough to really hear what we had to say and provided us with the life skills we needed to develop into strong young women.”
Edmonds not only mentored students, but she also mentored adults, including Councilor Melanie Sachs.
“When I first arrived to town I became a Girl Scout leader and I had a group of fifth-graders and one of our badges was to talk to a community leader and Beth agreed to do so,” Sachs recalled. “… and I have to say at the end of the session I had one young woman with special needs come up to me and say, ‘I never thought that I would be able to talk to a state senator.’
“Inspiring is the word. Thank you, Beth, for all you do to inspire everyone.”
Edmonds, who was visibly emotional when she accepted the award, said she was overwhelmed with the kind words everyone had for her, adding she couldn’t sleep the night before, knowing she had to accept the award and think of what she would say in her thank-you speech.
“This town itself has opened its own families up to me,” said Edmonds. “I wasn’t able to have children but I feel like I’ve been able to have lots of young people in my life and treasure every bit of them.”
She went on to say how thankful she was to the council to let her continue to work in the library when she was in the Senate.
“This town is thoughtful, they put money where money needed to be put, like to build schools and to build a great library and to make places for people to gather,” Edmonds said. “… they’ve always done it with open hearts, and I deeply appreciate all of you and this town for giving me the opportunity to do the things I’ve been able to do.”
Bethesda “Beth” Edmonds, who worked at libraries in Freeport for 33 years and served as president on the Maine Senate, was named Freeport’s Citizen of the Year on Tuesday night.
Councilor Eric Horne presents Beth Edmonds with the 2018 Citizen of the Year award.