Maine business icon and Bangor native David Flanagan died on Thursday at age 74 after making his battle with pancreatic cancer public in August, a family spokesperson confirmed.
Flanagan, of Manchester, was known as a turnaround specialist for troubled companies and organizations. As CEO at Central Maine Power Co. from 1994 to 2000, he is best known statewide for restoring power during the 1998 ice storm, closing the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and keeping rate increases below the rate of inflation.
CMP enjoyed a sterling reputation at that time, but it hit a nadir before the utility rehired him in February 2020 as executive board chairman and tasked him with restoring public trust after being hit with a record penalty for billing and customer service problems the year before as well as facing opposition to the utility’s $1 billion hydropower corridor.
After disclosing his cancer diagnosis, Flanagan stepped down from his leadership post but remained an advisor to CMP’s new president until his death.
“There is no one better suited, by skills, knowledge and temperament, to restore the quality of services and provide leadership in a new century for this historic Maine company,” Tony Marone, then the CEO of CMP’s parent company, Avangrid Networks, said when rehiring Flanagan in 2020.
Known for a calm and plain-spoken manner, Flanagan helped to rejuvenate the affordable housing management company Preservation Management Inc. and to restructure the University of Southern Maine, serving as interim president from 2014 to 2015. He worked to help close a $16 million budget gap by eliminating 51 positions and five programs, prompting clashes between faculty and system administrators.
Flanagan also dabbled in politics, running as an independent candidate for governor in 2002 but withdrawing. He also was chief legal counsel for two-term Gov. Joseph Brennan from 1979 to 1984 and an assistant Maine attorney general. From 2005 to 2006, he served as general counsel on the Hurricane Katrina investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, then chaired by Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
“No matter the challenge, David would use his leadership talents to make a positive difference,” Collins said in a statement.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, called Flanagan “a proven problem solver” and Sen. Angus King, an independent who was governor during the ice storm, said in a statement that he was in touch with Flanagan hourly during the crisis, recalling a time that he interrupted a live TV interview during that time to take a call from the CMP head.
“David’s resolve and strength under pressure were a testament to his fierce commitment and his wide range of skills honed by a career dedicated to public service,” he said.
The oldest in a family of eight children, Flanagan is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied history, and the Boston College Law School. He was schooled in Bangor and Hampden before moving to Portland and attending after moving with his father, an insurance claims adjuster, got a promotion, he told a Bowdoin College interviewer in 2009.
Flanagan and his wife, Kaye, also ran an eponymous charity that supported numerous causes in Maine, including a children’s center in Augusta. The two met in the Portland police station after being introduced by an officer who was a mutual friend as Flanagan worked as a law student under Brennan, who was then the Cumberland County district attorney.
Details of a memorial service will be shared in the coming days, Flanagan’s family said in a statement.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.