13 newsmakers to watch in 2013

Posted Jan. 05, 2013, at 8 a.m.
Stephen Bowen, education commissioner
With school funding cuts expected, continued debate about school choice and charter schools and continued dissatisfaction with the state's consolidation law, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen will be in the spotlight this year. In July 2012, Bowen and Gov. Paul LePage coined their reform efforts as the “ABC Plan,” which stands for accountability, best practices and school choice. Under Bowen, the Legislature approved Maine’s first-ever law that allows public charter schools, an initiative that is likely to see more attention from the Department of Education and lawmakers in the upcoming session, perhaps most notably the issue of allowing virtual charter schools, where students receive their educations online. The wider issue of school choice — letting students choose which districts they attend and having state dollars follow them to their new districts — is another carry-over from the previous session. Bowen, a former educator, also is overseeing the implementation of an evaluation system for teachers and principals that is in the midst of a contentious rule-making process. (Chris Cousins, BDN)

Stephen Bowen, education commissioner

With school funding cuts expected, continued debate about school choice and charter schools and continued dissatisfaction with the state's consolidation law, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen will be in the spotlight this year. In July 2012, Bowen and Gov. Paul LePage coined their reform efforts as the “ABC Plan,” which stands for accountability, best practices and school choice. Under Bowen, the Legislature approved Maine’s first-ever law that allows public charter schools, an initiative that is likely to see more attention from the Department of Education and lawmakers in the upcoming session, perhaps most notably the issue of allowing virtual charter schools, where students receive their educations online. The wider issue of school choice — letting students choose which districts they attend and having state dollars follow them to their new districts — is another carry-over from the previous session. Bowen, a former educator, also is overseeing the implementation of an evaluation system for teachers and principals that is in the midst of a contentious rule-making process. (Chris Cousins, BDN)
Bruce Poliquin, former state treasurer
After two years as state treasurer, Poliquin returns to the private sector in 2013, but it’s unlikely he’ll disappear from the public eye. An unsuccessful candidate in Republican primaries for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2012, the energetic, outspoken conservative gained attention — and harsh criticism from Democrats — for injecting partisan politics into the formerly low-key work of state treasurer. He advocated aggressively for state pension reform and his persistent criticism of former Maine State Housing Authority Director Dale McCormick, a prominent Democrat, led to her resignation in March 2012. Without his treasurer’s platform, Poliquin will have to find new ways to support Gov. Paul LePage, criticize Democrats and, perhaps, plan his next campaign. (Robert Long, BDN)

Bruce Poliquin, former state treasurer

After two years as state treasurer, Poliquin returns to the private sector in 2013, but it’s unlikely he’ll disappear from the public eye. An unsuccessful candidate in Republican primaries for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2012, the energetic, outspoken conservative gained attention — and harsh criticism from Democrats — for injecting partisan politics into the formerly low-key work of state treasurer. He advocated aggressively for state pension reform and his persistent criticism of former Maine State Housing Authority Director Dale McCormick, a prominent Democrat, led to her resignation in March 2012. Without his treasurer’s platform, Poliquin will have to find new ways to support Gov. Paul LePage, criticize Democrats and, perhaps, plan his next campaign. (Robert Long, BDN)
Michelle Hood, CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems
If a bid by EMHS to merge with Portland’s Mercy Health System of Maine comes to fruition, Hood will oversee a health organization with a geographic reach wider than any other in Maine. Speculation abounds about Hood’s strategy for stepping outside the system’s traditional stomping grounds to plant a flag at the doorstep of rival MaineHealth. How will Brewer-based EMHS bring the financially troubled Mercy and its two Portland hospital campuses into the fold from more than 100 miles away? Will the addition of the Catholic health system lead Hood to share power with a southern Maine counterpart? (Jackie Farwell, BDN)
John Clarke Russ | BDN

Michelle Hood, CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems

If a bid by EMHS to merge with Portland’s Mercy Health System of Maine comes to fruition, Hood will oversee a health organization with a geographic reach wider than any other in Maine. Speculation abounds about Hood’s strategy for stepping outside the system’s traditional stomping grounds to plant a flag at the doorstep of rival MaineHealth. How will Brewer-based EMHS bring the financially troubled Mercy and its two Portland hospital campuses into the fold from more than 100 miles away? Will the addition of the Catholic health system lead Hood to share power with a southern Maine counterpart? (Jackie Farwell, BDN)
Donald Sussman, investor/developer
Sussman is married to Maine’s 1st District congresswoman, is among the country’s most prolific Democratic party donors, is the majority shareholder of MaineToday Media, and has plans to redevelop a long overlooked section of Portland. While Sussman’s role in politics may have attracted more attention in 2012 — his wife Chellie Pingree rolled to re-election, as did President Barack Obama and others he supported through his reported $1.15 million in donations to Democratic Super PACs — his development activity may be what draws headlines in the coming year. Sussman’s representatives have indicated he wants to build a condominium project for his Portland property between Franklin, Hampshire, Federal and Newbury streets. That’s near a hotbed of development activity in Maine’s largest city, with at least two other multimillion-dollar condo and retail projects planned or under way in the same India Street neighborhood. As one of (or the) largest landowner in Portland, what he does with his properties will shape the city’s future. (Seth Koenig, BDN)
Linda Coan O'Kresik

Donald Sussman, investor/developer

Sussman is married to Maine’s 1st District congresswoman, is among the country’s most prolific Democratic party donors, is the majority shareholder of MaineToday Media, and has plans to redevelop a long overlooked section of Portland. While Sussman’s role in politics may have attracted more attention in 2012 — his wife Chellie Pingree rolled to re-election, as did President Barack Obama and others he supported through his reported $1.15 million in donations to Democratic Super PACs — his development activity may be what draws headlines in the coming year. Sussman’s representatives have indicated he wants to build a condominium project for his Portland property between Franklin, Hampshire, Federal and Newbury streets. That’s near a hotbed of development activity in Maine’s largest city, with at least two other multimillion-dollar condo and retail projects planned or under way in the same India Street neighborhood. As one of (or the) largest landowner in Portland, what he does with his properties will shape the city’s future. (Seth Koenig, BDN)
Lauren Wayne, general manager, The State Theatre
The return to prominence by The State Theatre in Portland over the last two years has been credited with jolting back to life the southern Maine live music scene. And the return to prominence by The State Theatre has been widely attributed to the work of Lauren Wayne, a Portland music and booking industry insider hired as the venue’s general manager when new owners acquired the place in 2010. The State had been closed the previous four years, leaving Portland without a crucially important mid-sized concert venue for that time. But in the two years since its reopening, The State Theatre has not only attracted back to Portland mid-sized touring acts, but major international names as well. Under the direction of Wayne, The State Theatre has expanded into southern Maine’s most influential promoter, and was behind the monster music festival headlined by British folk rock stars Mumford & Sons that attracted 16,000 people to Portland’s city-owned park on the Eastern Promenade last summer. In 2013, Wayne’s team is eyeing more outdoor concerts, as well as new corporate partnerships for the venue that could further elevate The State Theatre’s already skyrocketing profile. (Seth Koenig, BDN)

Lauren Wayne, general manager, The State Theatre

The return to prominence by The State Theatre in Portland over the last two years has been credited with jolting back to life the southern Maine live music scene. And the return to prominence by The State Theatre has been widely attributed to the work of Lauren Wayne, a Portland music and booking industry insider hired as the venue’s general manager when new owners acquired the place in 2010. The State had been closed the previous four years, leaving Portland without a crucially important mid-sized concert venue for that time. But in the two years since its reopening, The State Theatre has not only attracted back to Portland mid-sized touring acts, but major international names as well. Under the direction of Wayne, The State Theatre has expanded into southern Maine’s most influential promoter, and was behind the monster music festival headlined by British folk rock stars Mumford & Sons that attracted 16,000 people to Portland’s city-owned park on the Eastern Promenade last summer. In 2013, Wayne’s team is eyeing more outdoor concerts, as well as new corporate partnerships for the venue that could further elevate The State Theatre’s already skyrocketing profile. (Seth Koenig, BDN)
Ryan Flaherty, Major League Baseball player
Flaherty, 26, reached the big leagues in 2012 after four years in the minors. The Portland native now faces the challenge of trying to elevate his game and remain on the roster. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Flaherty was chosen by Baltimore last December in the Rule 5 draft and signed with the Orioles in April. He played seven different positions, including 28 games at second base and 24 in the outfield. The former Deering High School and Vanderbilt University star appeared in 77 games (.216 batting average, 6 home runs, 19 runs batted in) and committed only three errors in 141 chances (.979). Flaherty homered against the New York Yankees in the playoffs. The 2008 first-round pick of the Chicago Cubs earned $480,000 in 2012. He is preparing for 2013 by playing for the Leones de Escogido in the Dominican Winter League in the hope of increasing his role with the Orioles. (Pete Warner, BDN)
Anthony Gruppuso | US Presswire

Ryan Flaherty, Major League Baseball player

Flaherty, 26, reached the big leagues in 2012 after four years in the minors. The Portland native now faces the challenge of trying to elevate his game and remain on the roster. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Flaherty was chosen by Baltimore last December in the Rule 5 draft and signed with the Orioles in April. He played seven different positions, including 28 games at second base and 24 in the outfield. The former Deering High School and Vanderbilt University star appeared in 77 games (.216 batting average, 6 home runs, 19 runs batted in) and committed only three errors in 141 chances (.979). Flaherty homered against the New York Yankees in the playoffs. The 2008 first-round pick of the Chicago Cubs earned $480,000 in 2012. He is preparing for 2013 by playing for the Leones de Escogido in the Dominican Winter League in the hope of increasing his role with the Orioles. (Pete Warner, BDN)
Alex Gray, concert promoter
Gray is pretty close to a household name in the Bangor area thanks to his wildly successful Waterfront Concerts, which have brought tens of thousands of people to downtown Bangor. With the opening of the new Cross Insurance Center in 2013, Gray has an opportunity to bring entertainment to eastern Maine year-round. The new center is expected to open to the public in September — when we’ll see just what the new arena can bring to the area, and what folks like Gray can do with it. (Emily Burnham, BDN)
John Clarke Russ | BDN

Alex Gray, concert promoter

Gray is pretty close to a household name in the Bangor area thanks to his wildly successful Waterfront Concerts, which have brought tens of thousands of people to downtown Bangor. With the opening of the new Cross Insurance Center in 2013, Gray has an opportunity to bring entertainment to eastern Maine year-round. The new center is expected to open to the public in September — when we’ll see just what the new arena can bring to the area, and what folks like Gray can do with it. (Emily Burnham, BDN)
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, independent singer-songwriter
Though she’s now based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lady Lamb the Beekeeper — aka Aly Spaltro — got her start and learned her stuff while living in Brunswick, and quickly became one of the most well-known and respected live musicians in Maine. Now she’s readying the release of “Ripley Pine,” a lushly recorded collection of the songs she wrote while living in Maine, set to be put out by Ba Da Bing Records. Early buzz is that she’s on the cusp of indie-rock stardom. (Emily Burnham, BDN)
John Clarke Russ | BDN

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, independent singer-songwriter

Though she’s now based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lady Lamb the Beekeeper — aka Aly Spaltro — got her start and learned her stuff while living in Brunswick, and quickly became one of the most well-known and respected live musicians in Maine. Now she’s readying the release of “Ripley Pine,” a lushly recorded collection of the songs she wrote while living in Maine, set to be put out by Ba Da Bing Records. Early buzz is that she’s on the cusp of indie-rock stardom. (Emily Burnham, BDN)
Tim Whitehead, UMaine hockey coach
After leading the Black Bears to a 154-69-26 record, six consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, four Frozen Fours and two NCAA championship game appearances in his first six seasons, the Black Bears have gone just 87-94-22 over the next five-plus seasons and have just one NCAA berth. Maine is 2-11-2 this season and has the program’s longest home winless streak (0-6-2). Some boosters are calling for a coaching change but it would cost the university $190,000, one year’s pay, to buy Whitehead out of the final year of his contract. Will athletic director Steve Abbott save the university $190,000 by allowing Whitehead to finish out his contract next season even if the team fails to make the Hockey East playoffs? Can Whitehead save his job with a strong second half? Or will Abbott bring in someone new to start the rebuilding process right away? (Larry Mahoney, BDN)
Michael C. York | BDN

Tim Whitehead, UMaine hockey coach

After leading the Black Bears to a 154-69-26 record, six consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, four Frozen Fours and two NCAA championship game appearances in his first six seasons, the Black Bears have gone just 87-94-22 over the next five-plus seasons and have just one NCAA berth. Maine is 2-11-2 this season and has the program’s longest home winless streak (0-6-2). Some boosters are calling for a coaching change but it would cost the university $190,000, one year’s pay, to buy Whitehead out of the final year of his contract. Will athletic director Steve Abbott save the university $190,000 by allowing Whitehead to finish out his contract next season even if the team fails to make the Hockey East playoffs? Can Whitehead save his job with a strong second half? Or will Abbott bring in someone new to start the rebuilding process right away? (Larry Mahoney, BDN)
Ashley Ryan, emerging Republican leader
Supporters of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign objected loudly last summer when the Republican National Committee replaced 10 of Maine’s Paul-supporting delegates to the Republican National Convention with Mitt Romney supporters. As the Maine delegates’ plight made national news, one Ron Paul enthusiast, 21-year-old Ashley Ryan, emerged as an articulate spokeswoman for the displaced delegation. During a pre-convention speech at a Ron Paul rally at the University of South Florida, Ryan called on fellow Paul supporters to get involved with their local party organizations and change them from within. Ryan, a University of Southern Maine student from South Portland, is already doing that. She was elected last spring as Maine’s Republican national committeewoman, becoming the youngest person ever elected to the RNC. As Maine’s Republican Party recovers from its 2012 electoral losses, Ryan will be a Republican to watch as she tries to influence the organization from the inside. (Matthew Stone, BDN)
via Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan, emerging Republican leader

Supporters of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign objected loudly last summer when the Republican National Committee replaced 10 of Maine’s Paul-supporting delegates to the Republican National Convention with Mitt Romney supporters. As the Maine delegates’ plight made national news, one Ron Paul enthusiast, 21-year-old Ashley Ryan, emerged as an articulate spokeswoman for the displaced delegation. During a pre-convention speech at a Ron Paul rally at the University of South Florida, Ryan called on fellow Paul supporters to get involved with their local party organizations and change them from within. Ryan, a University of Southern Maine student from South Portland, is already doing that. She was elected last spring as Maine’s Republican national committeewoman, becoming the youngest person ever elected to the RNC. As Maine’s Republican Party recovers from its 2012 electoral losses, Ryan will be a Republican to watch as she tries to influence the organization from the inside. (Matthew Stone, BDN)
Jean Hoffman, founder and CEO of Putney Inc.
After securing $21 million in venture capital in late 2011, Jean Hoffman has spent the past year beefing up her staff and continuing the slog through the federal approval process for several generic pet medications her company, Portland-based Putney Inc., has in development. The company, which Hoffman founded in 2006 to develop generic and inexpensive medications for pets, currently has about $20 million in revenue, but Hoffman said the company expects to reach $100 million over the next few years as more of its medications gain approval and hit shelves. The company expanded from 12-35 employees during 2012 and expects to hire another 20 people in 2013, all in anticipation of the federal approvals that will provide rapid growth when they come, potentially in 2013. (Whit Richardson, BDN)
Matt Wickenheiser | BDN

Jean Hoffman, founder and CEO of Putney Inc.

After securing $21 million in venture capital in late 2011, Jean Hoffman has spent the past year beefing up her staff and continuing the slog through the federal approval process for several generic pet medications her company, Portland-based Putney Inc., has in development. The company, which Hoffman founded in 2006 to develop generic and inexpensive medications for pets, currently has about $20 million in revenue, but Hoffman said the company expects to reach $100 million over the next few years as more of its medications gain approval and hit shelves. The company expanded from 12-35 employees during 2012 and expects to hire another 20 people in 2013, all in anticipation of the federal approvals that will provide rapid growth when they come, potentially in 2013. (Whit Richardson, BDN)
Donnie Smith, Washington County Sheriff

Washington County’s second-term sheriff, Donnie Smith, 59, can’t seem to go a week without being in the news. His sometimes caustic, shoot-from-the-lip opinions and his no-nonsense approach to managing his deputies and the workings of the Washington County Jail have drawn both high praise from supporters and disdain from critics, as has his controversial stand on banning assault weapons. In recent months Smith has found himself immersed in an ongoing investigation of the handling of funds within the Washington County Jail and the issuance of “special deputy” credentials to Hancock County physician Benjamin Newman, 72, who recently left a loaded handgun in a restroom at an L.L. Bean outlet in Ellsworth. Smith has also been critical of Washington County physicians who, in his view, over-prescribe opiate-based pharmaceuticals that have a high street value. (Tom Walsh, BDN)

Donnie Smith, Washington County Sheriff

Washington County’s second-term sheriff, Donnie Smith, 59, can’t seem to go a week without being in the news. His sometimes caustic, shoot-from-the-lip opinions and his no-nonsense approach to managing his deputies and the workings of the Washington County Jail have drawn both high praise from supporters and disdain from critics, as has his controversial stand on banning assault weapons. In recent months Smith has found himself immersed in an ongoing investigation of the handling of funds within the Washington County Jail and the issuance of “special deputy” credentials to Hancock County physician Benjamin Newman, 72, who recently left a loaded handgun in a restroom at an L.L. Bean outlet in Ellsworth. Smith has also been critical of Washington County physicians who, in his view, over-prescribe opiate-based pharmaceuticals that have a high street value. (Tom Walsh, BDN)
Julie A. Richard, Maine Arts Commission executive director
Selected as the executive director of the Maine Arts Commission in the summer of 2012, Richard stepped into the prestigious position in September with the intentions to “take [the organization] to the next level,” according to a post on the commission’s blog. Throughout her more than 25-year career in arts administration, Richards has written numerous papers on arts development and served on approximately 30 boards or councils devoted to the arts. In August, chairman of the Maine Arts Commission Charles Stanhope said, “The commission members and staff look forward to working with her to sustain, strengthen and expand the vital creative investment the arts in Maine are making to our daily lives, and in the state’s economy.” Richard’s past success bodes well for the commission. As the director of the Metropolitan Arts Council in Greenville, S.C., she increased financial support for artists fivefold and secured a $2.1 million grant for arts education partnerships. (Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN)

Julie A. Richard, Maine Arts Commission executive director

Selected as the executive director of the Maine Arts Commission in the summer of 2012, Richard stepped into the prestigious position in September with the intentions to “take [the organization] to the next level,” according to a post on the commission’s blog. Throughout her more than 25-year career in arts administration, Richards has written numerous papers on arts development and served on approximately 30 boards or councils devoted to the arts. In August, chairman of the Maine Arts Commission Charles Stanhope said, “The commission members and staff look forward to working with her to sustain, strengthen and expand the vital creative investment the arts in Maine are making to our daily lives, and in the state’s economy.” Richard’s past success bodes well for the commission. As the director of the Metropolitan Arts Council in Greenville, S.C., she increased financial support for artists fivefold and secured a $2.1 million grant for arts education partnerships. (Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN)

A fresh year is upon us. And, so it a new list of Maine’s movers and shakers, the power brokers, the artists, the entrepreneurs, and media moguls. Everyone knows that Gov. Paul LePage and new Sen. Angus King will be in the headlines, so here are the lesser known newsmakers of Maine. Here are 13 of them you can be sure will help shape the year ahead.

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