Longtime Cumberland town councilor prepares for move to Legislature

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CUMBERLAND — It’s funny how life events can line up.

Steve Moriarty’s oldest daughter, Kathleen, was a baby when he was appointed to his first town board in 1985. And now, wrapping up more than 20 years of service on the Town Council before starting a new political career in the state Legislature, Moriarty gave Kathleen away in marriage last weekend.

Moriarty, a Democrat, earned his transition to Augusta by defeating fellow Cumberland resident Joe Kumiszcza, a Republican, Nov. 6 in House District 108. Taking the legislative job means Moriarty will resign from the Town Council.

Because less than six months will remain in his term when he steps down in late December or early January 2013, the council is expected to appoint a replacement to serve until the June 2013 election, instead of holding a special election.

Moriarty, 62, is an attorney with Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, a Portland firm. He served on the Cumberland Town Council from 1987 to 1993, and then again from 1997 to the present day. He is currently council chairman.

He has also served on Cumberland’s Charter Commission; the Twin Brook Advisory, Rines Forest, Route 88, Route 100, Veterans Memorial, Cumberland/North Yarmouth Joint Standing and Main Street committees; the Patten Free Library advisory board, and the Val Halla Board of Trustees.

Moriarty is also no stranger to Statehouse politics: he served on the Maine Municipal Association Legislative Policy Committee.

The Town Council appointed him to the Conservation Committee in 1985, a role he embraced due to his interest in preserving Cumberland’s rural character and open space.

“I think it whetted my appetite for public service and greater commitment to the town,” he said. “… It’s been an extraordinarily rewarding experience. Not always easy, and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately positive.”

Moriarty said he had been thinking about running for the House, and expected to wait until Rep. Meredith Strang-Burgess, R-Cumberland, was termed out in 2014. But when she stepped down this year, at the end of her third term, Moriarty decided it was time to throw his hat into the ring.

While Moriarty said he is not required to resign from the Town Council, it was easy for him to decide he couldn’t serve in the House and on the council at the same time.

He said he faces a steep learning curve at the House. “From what I understand, in talking to those who are serving and have served, you learn by doing, and that’s where I think most of the education will come from,” he said.

Town Manager Bill Shane said Tuesday that he expects a quick and fluid process in finding Moriarty’s replacement, in order to have a complete Town Council by the start of fiscal 2014 budget planning sessions.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Shane said of Moriarty’s impending departure from the council. “… I think Steve will do an outstanding job for the entire state and will represent the town so well in Augusta. … That’s a very positive thing for … many people.

“But the hard thing for us here locally is that he has such a great understanding of the community, of the ordinances … he’s just a good person,” the town manager continues. “And he’s a person that can find the middle ground. … He doesn’t have to win at every debate; he’s always trying to facilitate good public discussion, and it’s a huge loss.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Steve Moriarty

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.