While many of us were obsessing this week about whether Big Brother is monitoring that silly cat video we posted on Facebook or whether the IRS will now audit Tim Tebow, Maine’s newest senator quietly announced that he was consolidating two of his southern Maine field offices.
Although the news of Senator Angus King closing his Biddeford and Portland offices didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it does bear mentioning and warrants a positive shout-out for at least two reasons.
1.) Consolidating the Biddeford and Portland office at a centralized Scarborough field office is aimed at efficiency and will save taxpayer money.
2.) More importantly, this symbolic gesture recognizes the most important part of what constituent service should entail: the constituent.
Allow me to explain the more important, latter point. King wants his staff in the field; mobile, flexible and ready to meet with constituents on their terms.
Instead of being pinned down at a desk, King wants Bonnie Pothier (King’s York County rep.) and Travis Kennedy (King’s Cumberland County rep.) to spend more time moving around their respective fields, more involved in the entire area than just one particular office location.
So, while the office closing represent a slight loss for the cities of Biddeford and Portland, the bigger gains will be for people who were already somewhat geographically removed from those locations; i.e. residents or business owners who live or work in places like Standish, Kittery, Sanford and Brunswick.
Sure, this is mostly a symbolic gesture, but it is consistent with what King promised us during last year’s campaign: to find ways to better connect Maine people with Washington D.C., such as his weekly Capitol Coffee sessions, held each Wednesday morning in his D.C. Senate office. If you happen to be in DC, you can swing by and have a blueberry muffin with your senator.
Symbolic, Folksy, Quirky? Check to all three, but it does again reinforce the idea that your senator is available and wants to hear from you.
And today, King begins his Your Government, Your Neighborhood roadshow, in which his staff will fan out across the state to hold listening tours with any interested constituents. Although this method of constituent outreach is almost as old as the US Senate; King is leveraging his social media assets to amp up constituent participation.
And finally, King, the governor who launched Maine’s seventh-grade laptop program, is using technology to hopefully connect with every classroom in Maine by using Skype, as detailed in this story from the Bangor Daily News.
As Americans continue expressing a lack of confidence in the federal government, it’s real easy for most of us to remain stuck in a cynical posture about those loathsome folks bickering in Washington. But at least King is pushing for a greater connection with his constituents, and saving us a few bucks in the process.
I have never been an Angus King cheerleader, and I think it’s far too early in his senate career to determine whether he can actually pull off some of the lofty ideas he talked about during the campaign, but so far…. I like what I see….
The idea of free coffee on Wednesday mornings? Well, let me know when we can start sampling Maine micro-brews in the Dirksen Senate building on Thursday nights, and I’ll be the first in line every week.