This year’s MFPC legislative reception was lively, loud and a great opportunity for legislators, state officials and members to meet or get to know each other better. About three dozen legislators, another three dozen members, state officials, lobbyists and others crowded the MFPC conference room.
“It’s a place where we can be comfortable having conversations that never could take place otherwise,” said Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Somerset, a firewood dealer. “It gives our industry a chance to mingle with policymakers and get to know each other better. I think we all have a better understanding of important issues as information flows in both directions. I know I learned a lot and count it as time well spent.”
The reception had been set for Feb. 13, but was postponed because of a snowstorm. It was clear, but cold Feb. 27 and legislators started arriving even before the reception officially began at 4 p.m. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy light hors d’oeuvres, beverages and good conversation.
“It was great to see such a variety of legislators at our reception and we appreciate all those who took the time to visit,” said Executive Director Patrick Strauch. “Despite the polarity in Augusta and some of the debates in which we participate in (guns and rangers) we have respect for all opinions and hope to maintain our reputation as an issues driven organization.”
It didn’t hurt that the buffet was excellent, thanks to MFPS Office Manager Sue McCarthy’s event-planning expertise. Although it’s described as “light hors d’oeuvres,” it included plenty of hearty food, including meatballs, scallops, shrimp, chicken, pizza, vegetables, cheeses and more, plus beer, wine, coffee, soda and water. Nobody goes away hungry.
“I look forward to this annual event,” said Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield. “It’s great to reconnect with members we’ve met on the woods tours and get an update on how things are going in the industry.”
Among others who attended were Steve Shaler, director of UMaine’s School of Forest Resources; Rick Bennett, Maine GOP chairman, ACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb; Maine State Forester Doug Denico; John Butera and Rosaire Pelletier, of Gov. LePage’s office, and Ed Meadows, director of Land for Maine’s Future.
“What a great event,” Meadows emailed later. “Thanks very much for including me. It was wonderful to catch up with so many council members.”
The reception also gave Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, who chairs the Legislative Memorial Scholarship Fund, an opportunity to ask MFPC members to contribute to items for the annual auction. Hundreds of items are donated, many of them made in Maine. The fund makes it possible for 16 students, one from each county in Maine, to receive as much as a $1000 award.
For Sen. Andre Cushing, who owns a home construction company, it’s heartening to see legislators learn more about what matters to Maine’s forest products industry.
“It is a great event and a very beneficial opportunity for legislators to meet with members of the forest industry to learn more about the issues that impact their companies and this core Maine industry,” Cushing said. “I always enjoy the opportunity to attend.”
The reception also is valuable to MFPC, its members and all who are involved with Maine’s forest economy, Strauch said.
“These events are important,’ Strauch said, “because they let legislators and members of the administration see the people that the organization represents. Thanks to those who attended and members of the Board of Directors who hosted the event. As always a great job by Office Manager Sue McCarthy in taking care of the details!”