Opinion

In first 100 days, I give Mills good marks for health care, decency

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Later this week, we’ll mark the first 100 days of Gov. Janet Mills’ administration.

President Franklin Roosevelt used the first 100 days of his administration as a milestone to measure the progress that he had been made – under difficult circumstances – to right the ship of state in 1933.

Since then, actions taken during the first 100 days of an administration have been used to judge whether a political leader has gotten off to a strong start and delivered on the promises of the campaign.

By any objective measure, the first 100 days of the Mills administration have largely been a success. She’s expanded access to health care to 70,000 Mainers. She’s made climate change a central theme of state government. She’s appointed well-respected and highly qualified public servants to state departments and agencies. And she’s submitted a reasonable budget that manages to increase funding for education and support to local towns and cities without raising taxes.

I can’t say that I’ve agreed with every decision the new governor has made, but she has done the big things she said she would do and she has remained focused on the policies she talked the most about during the campaign: health care, climate change, opioids and good governance.

The biggest policy and political test at the beginning of her administration is still to come – her ability to negotiate and pass a state budget, with Republican support in the House and Senate, that remains true to her values and her promises.

As we all fill out our individual score card on Mills’ first 100 days, I want to add a category that goes beyond policy or politics. Mills has returned dignity and decency to the Blaine House.

Now to be clear, there are folks who have been on the receiving end of tough treatment from the new governor, but we’ve gone more than three months without her making headlines for offensive or racist comments, without an attack on the media, or threats or invitations to violence.

Not once has she been called upon by the Washington Post to resign or been called America’s craziest governor. There’s been no talk, that I’ve heard, of impeachment.

The governor appears in public. She sings on late night TV. She reads song lyrics and poetry as parts of her prepared remarks. She puts her arms around friends and hams it up with kids. She answers questions from the public and the press.

Mills is quirky and funny, showing a sharp, dry wit.

She appears to recognize her place and time in history – is aware of the glass ceiling she helped to shatter as the first woman governor of the state – and is comfortable showing her personality and not trying to mask it to conform with someone else’s ideas about what it means to act gubernatorial.

All in all, she’s returned a sense of normalcy and maybe a little fun to the governor’s office.

When it comes to the achievement that’s likely done the most to improve thousands of Maine lives, that’s easy: Mills expanded Medicaid. People will live longer, healthier and more secure lives because she took action.

But her humanity and the way she has returned a baseline of good behavior to the office of governor must be considered a major achievement.

For countless young women, she serves as a model of what can be achieved, an example that barriers to advancement and success can be overcome and that the old rules that have kept women out of the top jobs in government are being re-written.

We can expect missteps, mistakes and missed opportunities from the Mills administration, just like we would from any governor. No human endeavor will ever be perfect.

Mills should crow about what she’s done during the sprint of her first 100 days in office. I’m going to give a big sigh of relief for some of the things she hasn’t done.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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