In the fall of 1980, me and a group of friends joined the political campaign of a young up-and-coming citizen of Bangor, Maine; a gentleman named John Baldacci, who was running for city council against a man named Howard Trotzky.
We walked neighborhoods, handing out fliers; we cold-called people from a long list of numbers printed on a dot-matrix printer; and we waited on that November day as the votes were cast.
I left politics never to look back, except from time to time to express my own rights as an independently registered voter.
Thankfully, the honorable Mr. Baldacci stayed in the game and later became a congressman in Washington, D.C, (1993-2003), and then the Governor of Maine for two terms (2003-2011).
The reason I bring this up today is because two old friends from my high school days — Joe Perry and Dani O’Halloran — have put themselves out there and entered the world of local politics.
On Tuesday, Joe won in his quest for a seat on the Bangor City Council.
Across the river, Dani lost her seat as a member of the Brewer School Committee.
As far as I’m concerned, though, both are most definitely winners. And always have been.
Back in high school, everybody could have seen Joe Perry becoming a politician. Everybody liked him. And he liked everybody, or so it seemed. He greeted everybody with a warm a smile and an open mind. It didn’t matter what clique you belonged to, you felt like Joe knew you and liked you.
As a football player at John Bapst Memorial High School, he wasn’t the most talented individual, but his work ethic was something that everybody could have and should have followed. He was one of those people who was a thankless lineman, but he took pride in that, being in the trenches and doing the dirty work so the team could succeed.
Twelve years after high school, right around the time he was 30, I suppose, Joe was voted to represent Bangor in the Maine House of Representatives. Eight years later, he ran for — and won — a seat in the Maine Senate, serving another eight years there.
(I also think it’s pretty cool that he served under Gov. Baldacci, a man he knew well.)
Even though I no longer live in Bangor, when I saw on Joe’s Facebook page that he was running for a seat on the city council, I was happy for him … and happy for the residents of my former hometown.
Not only do I feel Joe is the right man for the job, in my heart of hearts I think he’s the best man for the job, too.
He would have had my vote in each election he ran in. He’s that good of a man.
Dani, meanwhile, is also that good of a woman.
While I was able to follow Joe Perry’s political career through the press, Dani O’Halloran disappeared from my life for a good two-plus decades after high school.
Dani and I first got to know each other when she was a manager for our junior varsity basketball team. We would sit together on bus rides home and as I got to know her, I also got to know of her family a bit and since she had multiple police officers around her, public service was obviously in her blood.
It was only after rediscovering her through the magic of Facebook that I got to realize she had become a Mom, a professional in the real estate world, and a member of the Brewer School Committee.
Like others in her family, she was giving back to her community and I admire her so much for that.
It’s one thing to love your kids and follow their exploits as they grow up, but it’s taking it to a totally different level when you jump in to the fray of a local school committee, or school board, to make things better not just for your kids, but for everybody’s else’s kids, as well.
And that’s the kind of person Dani has grown up to be, and I think that’s pretty great.
I admire her more now than I ever did when we were teenagers and the most important thing in my world was that day’s junior varsity game. (I was such a little picture thinker compared to her!)
Last night, Dani posted her congratulations to those who won seats (A class act by a class lady, might I add) and this morning when I got up I looked at the results myself.
She lost by 95 votes.
The city of Brewer lost by a lot more, in my humble opinion.
During my three decades in journalism, I’ve been privy to cover the world of local politics — city council meetings, school board meetings and the like — and I hated every minute of it.
But by sitting there and listening to everything that was said and talked about during these mundane, yet important, meetings, it did bring me a new-found respect to those who put themselves out there and run for such offices for the greater good of their towns and states.
It takes a very special person to do that and that’s exactly what Joe Perry and Dani O’Halloran are to their respective communities and the people in their respective lives.
It’s taken me far too long to say it, but both of them are winners in my book and I know each of them are passing down what makes them so great to their own children — Joe’s sons, and Dani’s daughters, as well.
Thus, there is hope for the future.
So 24 hours after our most recent election — for a while at least — I can feel pretty good about that.