Maine goes to Washington to organize, protect and blog

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 16, 2009, at 11:43 p.m.

U.S. Marine Anthony Morissette of Hermon will be working hard in Washington during the presidential inauguration to make sure that everyone is safe. Mike Hurley, the former mayor of Belfast, will attend every party and do his best to find a crayon box’s worth of color commentary for his blog postings.

And Emmett Beliveau of Augusta is running the whole show — from the Saturday whistle-stop journey to Washington to Tuesday night’s official balls — as the head of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Mainers of all stripes are involved in the historic inauguration, which marks the moment when President Bush will pass the nation’s leadership to Barack Obama, the first black president.

The organizer

“It’s been challenging,” Beliveau said Thursday in a phone interview. “There is so much to do in so short a time.”

The Colby College graduate and son of prominent Maine lawyer and lobbyist Severin Beliveau has been working with Obama since February 2007. He has arranged hundreds of events during the campaign, including the Berlin rally that attracted more than 200,000 people.

He also was in charge of the party in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night.

Beliveau’s daughter, Maeve, was born just a day earlier, on Nov. 3.

“It’s been a very busy couple of months,” Beliveau said.

After the inauguration, he said, he hopes to have the opportunity to work with the new president — and also to spend some time in Rangeley, where the family has a camp.

“We need to rest a bit,” said Beliveau.

But first he needs to get through the inauguration, which includes a massive free concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, with performances by Bono, Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen.

“It’ll be an incredible gathering of Americans from across the land,” Beliveau said. “The interest in the inauguration is phenomenal.”

The Marine

Morissette, 24, said that he and the other members of the II Marine Expeditionary Force have been training hard for the inaugural events. The unit specializes in responding to chemical and biological incidents, said Morissette, whose job is to bring people to safety in case of attack.

Not that he expects an attack, but he knows it’s good to be prepared.

“People will be placed in different areas to make sure that nothing happens,” the 2003 Hermon High School graduate said, “not just to the current president and the president-elect, but to the American people that are there — to keep them from harm’s way.”

Morissette said his official duties would not feel like just another day’s work.

“While this is a lot of training, at the same time it’s very exciting,” he said. “This is a historic event. That makes it even more worthwhile. I’ll be pretty busy. I won’t be able to sit down and watch, but I still know that I’ll be part of it.”

The blogger

“You know Hunter S. Thompson?” asked Hurley, the former mayor of Belfast. “I’m a little bit of ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.’”

Hurley may be exaggerating his similarities to the famous Gonzo journalist who became part of the stories he reported in the 1960s and 1970s. But when it comes to getting color commentary, he has some experience. At President Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, Hurley was up close and personal.

“I actually had front-row-center seats,” he said. “That was pretty dang phenomenal, and I would kill for that this time.”

Hurley will be writing for Belfast’s Republican Journal and for VillageSoup.com.

He has high hopes for the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.

“Fireworks, helicopters, spaceships. When you’re the federal government, you’ll have a lot of stuff,” Hurley quipped.

And the pomp won’t stop with the spaceships, Hurley said. He hopes to crash Maine’s most high-profile event, a private party at the New Zealand Embassy to celebrate the inauguration.

“When you get to Washington, D.C., you really feel the fact that this is Rome at its peak,” Hurley said. “People really want to be in on it. They want to see the parade. Considering the situation of our country and the world right now, I’m sure it feels odd to be partying too hard, but I guarantee you, there’s going to be a party. Because after that, you’ve got to get to work, so there might as well be a party.”

The party planner

Severin Beliveau knows how to put on a good show. His law firm, Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, has been “overwhelmed” with response to its luncheon at the New Zealand Embassy on Monday, the founding partner said this week.

“We’re very pleased,” Beliveau said. “It’s an opportunity for us to recognize our congressional delegation and Governor Baldacci.”

Other guests include former Govs. Angus King and Joseph Brennan, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and former Sen. Bill Hathaway, who defeated Margaret Chase Smith in 1972.

“It’ll be a great show,” Beliveau said. “It’s a Maine event. We’ll be showcasing Maine products. That’s the other purpose, for people to know we’re civil here. That we have quality food.”

The event is taking place in the New Zealand Embassy because restaurants and other more conventional sites were costing from $200 to $500 a person — an uneconomical sum, Beliveau concluded.

“We called the ambassador and he offered us his facilities,” Beliveau said.

He said that he had met Ambassador Roy Ferguson through a law partner, Simon Leeming of Concord, N.H., who is the New Zealand consul general for New England.

“I think it’ll be a lot of fun,” Beliveau said.

The law firm is filling a celebratory void left by the Maine State Society.

The society usually sponsors a Maine-based gathering during the inauguration but was simply priced out this year, according to Lewis Pearson of the society.

“The number of events and the people that want to hold them have driven the costs beyond all that’s reasonable,” Pearson said. “Unfortunately, we’re not doing anything this year.”

The Portland native and 1963 University of Maine graduate, who now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, was the director of facilities at the White House for years. He was involved with inaugurations for Presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and has many good memories of the festivities. Nonetheless, he said he didn’t want to be involved in this inauguration.

“It’s going to be total chaos here,” Pearson said. “I plan to work in the yard.”

The elder

James Varner, president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition, wears a baseball cap emblazoned with “Obama for President.”

“I’m going to be wearing this when I go to the inaugural,” he said. “I am most excited about going to this inauguration.”

Varner, who gave his age as “over 70” and who marched in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, said he feels as if he will be helping to represent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I did not think I would see what’s happening in America today, as far as the election of the president of the United States is concerned,” he said. “I didn’t think it would occur in my lifetime.”

acurtis@bangordailynews.net

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Box:

Maine’s congressional delegation reports overwhelming demand for the tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. Sen. Susan Collins had requests for about 1,000 tickets and about 400 to give out.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud received more than 1,000 requests and had 198 tickets to give out.

Sen. Olympia Snowe received requests for 1,700 tickets and had 393 to distribute.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree had requests for more than 1,500 tickets and had 198 to distribute.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill on Tuesday to prohibit the sale and counterfeiting of inaugural tickets. The bill was co-sponsored by Snowe and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“The 56th presidential inauguration will mark a new era in American history and will, without doubt, be commemorated for years to come,” Snowe said. “It is only appropriate that tickets to this monumental event be bestowed fairly and free of charge.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/01/16/news/maine-goes-to-washington-to-organize-protect-and-blog/ printed on July 25, 2014