WOOLWICH, Maine — Over the course of his life, Carlton Day Reed helped build one of Maine’s best known construction companies, and served in both chambers of the Maine Legislature, including a stint as Senate president, and on the board of two prominent Maine companies.
Reed, known as “Bud” to friends and family, died on Saturday, Dec. 8. He was 82.
“He cut a pretty wide swath,” said Jackson Parker, Reed’s son-in-law and current president of Reed & Reed, the construction company founded by Bud Reed’s father and grandfather.
In 1953, Bud Reed graduated from Colby College and became a partner at Reed & Reed. It remained a partnership until 1980, when Reed became president.
The company grew over the years by focusing on a specialization in bridge construction.
Reed served as president until 1986, when he handed the reins to Parker, who had married one of Reed’s daughters in 1976. Reed stayed on as chairman of Reed & Reed until 2010.
Reed was Parker’s mentor in many ways. “I think the most important thing he taught me was to let people — as painful as it may be — make mistakes,” Parker said. “That’s how they learn.”
Parker said Reed didn’t get deeply involved in the everyday workings of the company, but would offer guiding principles, such as, “if you’re not growing, you’re standing still; and if you’re standing still, you’re going to fail.”
In 1982, Reed & Reed posted about $5 million in revenue, Parker said. Today, it posts more than $100 million and does large amounts of business in the wind farm industry.
“So we’ve grown, and Bud was a part of that growth,” Parker said.
In a 2000 interview for the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library at Bates College, Reed said he preferred “the field part” of the construction business to the office.
“I like the crews, and there’s nothing any more interesting [than] to sit down and eat lunch with a construction gang. I used to say I learned more there than I did in the Legislature,” Reed said.
Reed was a hard worker, Parker said. He was “not afraid to jump into a hole and grab a shovel in his business suit to show someone how a job should be done,” Parker said. “He never asked more from an employee than he would do himself. This endeared him to our employees.”
Bud Reed was also an accomplished politician. He was elected in 1958 to the Maine House of Representatives and in 1962 to the Maine Senate, where he served for eight years, including a stint as Senate president. He was the first Democrat in 54 years to hold that position, according to his obituary. In 1966, he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Reed would have fit right into the current political situation. He offered the following quote to a reporter from the Times Record in September 1967, according to another of Reed’s sons-in-law, Jon Fitzgerald: “The most urgent need right now is for the Democrats and Republicans to forget politics and get something done,” Reed said. “The second thing is to keep Maine Maine. If you don’t, you’re going to destroy it.”
“He had this special ability to get people to work together,” Parker said.
After his career in politics, Reed was appointed a trustee of the University of Maine System and a member of the Maine State Board of Education. He joined the boards of Central Maine Power Co. and Canal National Bank, and later Key Bank after it acquired Canal. He served as chairman of CMP’s board from 1991 to 1995, which included some turbulent times, Parker said.
Reed had a “tremendous sense of virtue,” Parker said. “That attracts people in business, because everyone wants to do the right thing in business, and sometimes it’s not easy. Bud had a great sense of what to do.”
A funeral and reception for Reed were held on Friday, Dec. 14. He’s survived by his wife, Helen Elizabeth Cummings Reed of Woolwich; a sister, Hepzibah Powers of Kittery; a son, Thomas of Woolwich; and five daughters, Prudence Kraft of Falmouth, Susan Parker of Woolwich, Hopestill Spillane of Darien, Conn., Abigail Reed of Falmouth and Mary Fitzgerald of Falmouth.