The last member of LePage’s executive inner circle has left

Good morning from Augusta, where there has been a major change in Gov. Paul LePage’s office. John McGough, who has been his chief of staff since before the governor was elected in 2010, resigned to take a position with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

There doesn’t look to be any controversy here. With less than a year left in his tenure, LePage’s long-time employees are moving on, as is the case with second-term governors. Several executive branch employees have left during the past several months, including spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett and health policy adviser David Sorensen.

McGough has been a rock for LePage but has done it from the shadows. One of the best qualities of a chief of staff is being largely invisible from the public, and that’s been the case with McGough. He has been known to chat with reporters in the hallway, but always off the record and always very carefully. He has worked extensively with members of the Legislature on the big items, putting his fingerprints on much of LePage’s legacy. His past experience as a municipal human resources administrator in South Portland and Waterville, plus his former position as chief of staff for the Maine House Republican Office made him an apt fit for his position with LePage. McGough has long been rumored to be considering a job with the Trump administration.

The transition away from McGough should be smooth. His last day was Monday but LePage has moved another familiar face into the position: Holly Lusk. Lusk previously worked for the governor on policy before a stint as a lobbyist, but returned to LePage’s office as deputy chief of staff in November 2017. Lusk is an attorney with degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maine School of Law.

Lusk will be busy. LePage has already announced that his last year in office won’t be quiet. He’s said he’ll forward legislation to require voters to show photo identification at the polls and continue his efforts to lower student debt for Mainers. There is also a tax conformity fight coming soon to align Maine with federal tax code changes and LePage and his allies are sure to push for aggressive tax cuts to pair with the cuts from Congress and President Trump. Here’s Lusk’s soundtrack.

Today in A-town

The House and Senate return this morning but it’s for routine items. You can see their calendars here and here, but the action is weighted toward the afternoon with a heavy committee schedule. Scheduled is a hearing on a new version of a bill that was vetoed earlier this year to set up a sales, taxation and regulation system for recreational marijuana. That’s on a fast track so the Legislature can push back deadlines next month to have the system in place. Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is moving forward with what we’ll call a Plan B bill to delay those deadlines in case what we’ll call the Prime Time Bill isn’t successful.

The Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on a number of bond bills with the hope of putting together a package for voters to consider later this year.

Reading list

  • Fewer loggers are dying in the Maine woods, but researchers are studying their health issues as the profession grows more sedentary. The New York-based Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing is looking to recruit 300 Maine loggers for a five-year health study. The profession’s shift to mechanized logging has made it less dangerous, but it’s now setting up loggers more for health problems linked to a sedentary lifestyle, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Maine’s second drug and alcohol detoxification facility opened in Hampden last week. Advocates have long wanted this kind of addiction treatment facility in the Bangor area, and the new 10-bed New Horizon center joins a larger Portland facility as the only two in Maine. Drug overdoses are killing more than one person a day in Maine.
  • A Maine native thinks this video proves that a humpback whale saved her from a shark. Brunswick native Nan Hauser was snorkeling alongside the 50,000-pound whale in the Cook Islands in October when it tucked her under a fin and lifted her out of the water as a tiger shark approached. She thinks it may be some of the first evidence of whales’ protective nature. Here’s your soundtrack.

The day I made Pete Vigue cry

One of the titans of Maine business announced Monday that he is retiring. Peter Vigue, who has been the chief executive officer for Pittsfield-based Cianbro Companies for 17 years, will be succeeded by his son, Peter “Andi” Vigue.

The elder Vigue, at age 70, is downsizing his professional commitments but will remain involved in the company. During my early years with the Bangor Daily News, I lived in Pittsfield, right on the edge of the the Cianbro campus. I covered many Cianbro events, including their annual employee picnic where recognitions and awards were distributed amid steaks piled high.

My most memorable experience with Vigue, by far, was in November 2009 after one of the company’s namesakes, Ival “Bud” Cianchette, died at age 83. Vigue is not technically related to the Cianchettes but had a nearly lifelong familial relationship.

It didn’t make the article but at one point during the interview with Vigue, I asked what his favorite Bud Cianchette moment was. It’s a question I usually ask when working on obituaries. Sometimes it breeds gold, sometimes it flops.

Vigue, an undisputed business titan who has toyed with running for governor, bowed his head over the conference room table in Cianbro’s headquarters and shockingly, at least to me, started to cry.

“Just all the times he told me he loved me,” said Vigue.

Here’s to your career Mr. Vigue, and a life very well lived. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.