FTS Q & A: Governor Paul Lepage

After interviews with Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud, we round out our Maine Politics series covering the candidates for Governor in Maine with the man who currently holds the office, Paul LePage.
The spectrum of feelings on Paul LePage is as broad as it has been for any of our governors in recent memory. While opinions vary wildly depending on whether you lean to the left or to the right, the one thing that cannot be argued is that Governor LePage makes you think. While his candid comments to the media may seem like lapses in judgement to some, the topics that LePage has been willing to address are well outside the conservative platforms of past candidates for the Blaine House. His upbringing in one of the poorest areas in Lewiston to the highest political office in our state is nothing to ignore. That is why I was excited to sit down and speak with Governor LePage about his career, his time attending UMaine, and of course how he likes to fill the steins when he is not on the clock in Augusta.
Fill The Steins (FTS): Governor LePage, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Fill The Steins and I want to start off the interview with a look back at your childhood. To say you had a tough upbringing in Lewiston would be a bit of an understatement. One of 16 children, left home at age 11, lived on the streets through early high school working odd jobs to pay for food and clothes. What kept you going during those years to finish high school and eventually go on to college? 
Governor LePage (GL): My chance at experiencing the American Dream. I knew that education would be critical if I was ever going to escape a life of poverty, and living on the streets. In order to be successful, I learned at a very early age that getting an education was necessary. I have never forgotten the words: “if it is to be, it is up to me.” Those words drove me as an adolescent, and continue to drive me today. 
FTS: Clearly you did value education as you earned your undergraduate degree at Husson in Business Administration before attending the University of Maine where you earned an MBA. What is your fondest memory from your time spent at Orono? 
GL: I loved my time spent at Husson and at the University of Maine. My fondest memory from Orono would be meeting and developing friendships with the foreign students living in Estabrooke Hall. I was able to meet some outstanding individuals from all over the world including Thailand, Ethiopia, and Turkey. It was a wonderful experience to be able to interact with these individuals and learn about their cultures. 
FTS: The bulk of your career has been spent outside of politics, running a consulting firm (LePage & Kasevich) that helped struggling businesses as well as working in private industry. Do you feel your strong business background sometimes gets lost in the politics of Augusta? 
GL: Government is inefficient. I’m a guy who likes to just get things done, and not worry about who gets the credit. I don’t enjoy playing politics, so yes, sometimes I get frustrated. At the same time, I believe my business background and desire to get things done has led to many accomplishments that I am very proud of, such as paying $750 million welfare debt owed to Maine’s hospitals. In addition, Maine has the lowest unemployment rate since 2008, and almost 16,000 private sector jobs have been created. 
FTS: Before we dive deeper into your plans for the state let’s talk about your spare time. If you weren’t campaigning or handling other Governor duties, where would we find Paul LePage on a typical Weekend Afternoon if he had his choice? 
GL: Playing golf and having dinner with my beautiful wife and family,
FTS: A large part of our audience is current students or recent alumni of UMaine. Tuition at the state’s flagship school is hovering around $20K per year for in-state students all while the State contributes close to $250M a year in funding towards higher education institutions. What needs to happen to help make education through the UMaine System more affordable to in-state students? 
GL: While Governors of all political stripes across the nation have cut funding to all levels of education, I worked to maintain flat funding. Former Washington State Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire cut state support to colleges and universities by 15 percent, for example. Tuition is expensive, and higher education is quickly becoming a debt that our kids will never pay off. It is critical that we look for efficiencies in administration, and ensuring that valuable dollars are being spent on education in the classroom – and lowering tuition rates. Maine also needs to look at what type of student debt forgiveness programs we can provide as a state, to keep and attract young professionals to work in Maine, such as engineers, doctors, etc. 
Finally, the Bridge program is a great example of challenging our high school students to take college level courses which will help reduce the cost of tuition. Elimination of the need for remedial work in college will also help in lowering costs. We must focus on continuing to improve our K-12 education system to reduce the need for remedial work. 
FTS: Job creation is one of the key components of your campaign for Governor, do you feel the degree programs at UMaine are properly aligned to fit the new jobs you are hoping to bring to the state in the future? 
GL: UMaine has some very strong programs that are critical to Maine’s future. We need to focus on teaching our kids skills in technology, where they can secure more than just jobs – but fulfilling careers that provide benefits and job satisfaction. More work can be done in this area, among all levels of education. The jobs of the future will need a higher level of expertise in the STEM areas. 
FTS: We always like to finish our interviews with this question. Though not always the case, when the moment strikes you, what do you like to fill your stein with for a beverage? 
GL: Maine has some incredible breweries, my personal favorite being Shipyard Export!
We would like to thank Governor Paul LePage for taking the time to speak with us and we wish him well with his re-election campaign. As always, Fill The Steins will keep you up-to-date on the latest in Maine Politics as we move closer to the November elections.
So what did you think of our interview with the Governor? Did any of his responses surprise you or change your opinion of him? Leave your comments below and let’s start a discussion.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Bangor Daily News

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About "Fill The Steins": A multimedia platform devoted to providing an informative, entertaining forum that celebrates "the college of our hearts always" and its graduates' contributions to academics, athletics, and popular culture, as created by alumni and students, for alumni and students. FTS is not affiliated with the University of Maine or UMaine System and does not represent the views or opinions of the university in any way, shape, or form.
Copyright © Fill The Steins

This blog has been archived

This blog has been archived and is no longer being updated.