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Governor Shocked by Comment from Democratic Rep. Gilbert Stating Former Maine National Guard Member not a Real Veteran
September 4, 2012
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Contact: Adrienne Bennett (207) 287-2531
AUGUSTA – On Tuesday, September 4, Legislators began considering more than 70 confirmable appointments to the Governor’s Office Department of Boards and Commissions. This department is responsible for the oversight of Governor Paul LePage's appointments to boards and commissions throughout Maine with the governor appointing more than two thousand Maine citizens to serve on over three hundred boards and commissions.
Appointments vary in length such that there are always opportunities for Maine people to become involved in the appointments process. “I’m committed to appointing people of the highest quality who represent the best interests of the people of Maine.”
Among the 72 appointments is Christopher Pierce of Cumberland to the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) Board. Today, the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED) voted 7-3 to move the nomination forward to the Maine Senate. Three Democrats, including LCRED Committee Member Rep. Paul Gilbert, of Jay, chose to reject Mr. Pierce based on the false pretense that the nominee is not a veteran – a qualification in which FAME requires of this particular board member position.
Mr. Pierce was a member of the Maine Army National Guard for six years from 1971 to 1977 having served actively from September 1971 to March 1972. Mr. Pierce was honorably discharged in May 1977. According to current Maine statute a "Veteran" is any person who served in the United States Armed Forces and was not dishonorably discharged.
During Tuesday’s public hearing Rep. Paul Gilbert (D-Jay), a member of the LCRED Committee, implied that Mr. Pierce is not a real veteran. Rep. Gilbert said, “The National Guard in the 70s was not considered qualification for veteran’s status. That came up only in, since 1980. So I didn’t realize you were being put on there as a veteran. I think your credentials are great, but to fill a seat to be occupied by a veteran – that’s questionable.” Audio Link
Governor Paul LePage found Rep. Gilbert's comment offensive and out of line. “I am deeply disappointed by this comment,” stated Governor LePage. “All of our military service members are valued and should be recognized for their dedication to service. Rep. Gilbert may need a lesson on the freedoms we all share and how they came to be; it is because of the selflessness of our veterans, from the past and present, that we enjoy these freedoms. Many Maine Guard members have dedicated themselves to our state and nation and I commend all of them for their service and in too many instances their ultimate sacrifice.”
Rep. Gilbert has a record of voting against military professionals nominated to confirmable appointments by Governor LePage, including Lieutenant General Robert Winglass. Rep. Gilbert voted against Lt. Gen. Winglass on June 3, 2011. Lt. Gen. Winglass has served as the Maine Department of Labor Commissioner since June 2011.
The Maine Senate is expected to vote on Pierce’s nomination on Thursday, September 6.