Michael Aube

When Michael Aube, the recently retired president of Eastern Maine Department Corporation, was first offered that job back in 1981, he recalled asking the hiring committee where he should go out for lunch in Bangor that day.

“They gave me a list of restaurants, and said, ‘It’s in alphabetical order, so it starts with Burger King, but we haven’t updated it and we have an Arby’s now,’” said Aube, who retired last year from EMDC after two stints as its president (1981-92 and 2009-18).

Aube, who last night was honored with the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s Norbert X. Dowd Award, the chamber’s lifetime achievement award, remembered driving back to Massachusetts that night with his wife, Marian. She made it clear she was unconvinced about the move to Bangor. He stopped at a payphone to call the head of the hiring committee and tell him he did not want the job.

“The payphone was broken. I was never able to make the call,” Aube said. “That night, we talked it over, and we decided we’d give it a shot after all … but if that phone was working our lives would have been incredibly different.”

Nearly 40 years later, and the alphabetical list of restaurants in Bangor hits Chinese, Pakistani, Italian and brewpub-style restaurants before it even gets through the B’s. And Aube, who still lives in Bangor, played a major part in downtown Bangor’s transformation, in making Bangor a better place to live and work, and in the overall economic vitality of eastern Maine as a whole.

Aube, now 68, was born in Biddeford and raised in Saco, attending Thornton Academy and, later, Boston College. Upon graduating from BC in 1972, he taught at Governor Fairfield Academy in Saco for a year before taking a job working for George Mitchell’s 1974 gubernatorial campaign in Maine. After Mitchell lost that race, Aube went to Washington, D.C., where he worked for Sen. Edmund Muskie until 1981, when he moved to Bangor.

Credit: John Clarke Russ

During his time at EMDC, a nonprofit founded in 1967 that provides business, community and workforce services to the Bangor region, Aube was instrumental in many major developments in the area. They include helping Bangor-based businesses stay engaged in statewide projects, numerous job training initiatives, attracting the National Folk Festival to the Bangor Waterfront, and taking the lead on the effort to secure funding and support for the construction of the Cross Insurance Center.

Aube served two terms on the Bangor City Council, and was on the boards of the Bangor Historical Society and the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. In between stints as EMDC president, he served as Maine’s commissioner of economic development under Gov. John McKernan; he led the Maine Quality Centers, part of the Maine Community College system; he was economic development representative for the U.S. Department of Commerce for the states of Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island; and he was director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maine during the George W. Bush administration.

Though his work has taken him all over the country, he said he and his wife have not wanted to move from the Bangor area since they arrived here in 1981. Even though he’s retired, he still serves on boards in Bangor and as a consultant to local businesses and organizations.

“I’ve been all over the place, but I’ve enjoyed my work and my service here in Bangor the most,” said Aube, who has two grown children, Michael and Laura. “I think it’s because of how people do things around here. Things are very neighborly. We collaborate well with each other. I think it’s the sort of people here that make Bangor a little different from other places.”

The Norbert X. Dowd Award was given to Aube on Friday night at the Bangor chamber’s annual awards dinner, held at the Cross Insurance Center. Others awards given Friday night were the Business of the Year Award to engineering firm C.E.S. Inc.; the Catherine Lebowitz Award for Public Service to Upstart Maine founder Evan Richert; the M. Jane Irving Community Service Award to the Bangor Area Recovery Network; the Non-Profit of the Year Award to the Good Shepherd Food Bank; the Arthur A. Comstock Professional Service Award to UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation director Renee Kelly; the Bion and Dorain Foster Entrepreneurship Award to Coursestorm; and the BRCC Volunteer of the Year Award to Jaclyn Fish of Bangor Savings Bank.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.