Anne Perry Aims to Continue Service in the State House

Anne Perry is running for re-election to District 140’s seat in the State House of Representatives. (Online photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

Anne Perry of Calais is seeking to continue representing District 140 in the Maine State House of Representatives for the coming legislative term. Perry is an experienced legislator, having previously served in the House from 2002-2010 – stopping as a result of term limits – and then resuming with her re-election in 2016.

Personal background

As a nurse social worker for nearly three decades, Perry was at the forefront of the introduction of many social services while she and her husband were living in Ticonderoga, New York. It was there that they began their family while he was working at a paper mill and she was focusing on serving on steering committees for Planned Parenthood, implementing Head Start, and providing navigational assistance to families and institutions for the newly-begun Medicare and WIC programs.

In 1978, Perry began her first role as an elected official when she joined the local school board. In doing so, she was the first woman ever elected to the 15-member board in its history. Not long after she joined, she was elected to serve as president by the members of the board.

“That really taught me how to work with policy,” Perry explained. She detailed a situation in which the superintendent unlawfully suspended a student and she, after educating herself thoroughly on education laws, challenged his ruling. She went on to suggest new regulations at the state’s school board based on the situation – and the board adopted even more stringent policies than she suggested as a result. “It was learning how to deal with controversial issues, and essentially not take it personally,” she said. “It’s really about the issue, not who you are.”

In the 1990s, her husband was transferred to the Jay Mill, giving them both the opportunity to return to their home state. A few years later, with her master’s degree and Family Nurse Practitioner designation in hand, they moved to Calais.

Reasons for running and priorities

While working with Dr. Laurie Churchill, Perry was shocked to have diagnosed four cases of Hepatitis C in her first two years. “That was more than I’d seen in 28 years of nursing,” Perry said. Every single case was drug-related. She called the CDC and asked for stats on Hepatitis C. “He responded, ‘Washington County? Boy, do you have a problem,” Perry recalls.

The situation prompted Perry to join three others in forming Neighbors Against Drug Abuse to raise awareness, hold workshops and discussions, and find solutions. One of them was securing support for the methadone clinic and an additional treatment center that later fell through due to changes in the legislative body. “We had people traveling to Portland or Bangor every day. That’s how desperate people were for treatment,” Perry explained.

Perry ran for the state legislature in 2002. The first bill she introduced was a prescription monitoring program, a bill that had previously failed as a law enforcement initiative. She introduced it as a healthcare initiative, raised unanimous committee support for it after meeting with proponents and opponents, and saw it pass under the hammer without any notable opposition.

The drug epidemic remains among Perry’s top priorities, as she sees it as being directly interwoven with healthcare, the economy, and taxes. “The most difficult thing I see is the cost of addiction very much outweighs anything we don’t do,” she explained. “It costs more to incarcerate a person than to treat a person. If we get people back and healthy, we get people back in the workforce. It’s good for the economy. But an addict in jail is an addict out of jail. The more addicts we have on the ground, they’re going to create more addicts so they can continue to pay for their drug.” Perry refers to her approach as “secondary prevention” as it closes the loop of addiction once it’s been started. “Unless we get these people to treatment, we’ll have a lot of lost people who really could be a vital participator in our communities.”

The expansion of Medicaid, which Perry supports, would provide more healthcare for those in need, ease the burden on critical access hospitals such as Calais Regional Hospital, and alleviate the “hidden tax” that community members are paying for care for the uninsured, she said.

In terms of how drug treatment and prevention and better medical care would help the local economy, Perry raised the simple question, “What employer doesn’t want a healthy workforce?”

In regard to high property taxes, Perry attributes the increases that communities are seeing as being part of the loss of revenue sharing from the state. During the LePage administration, revenue sharing was cut twice to where it now sits at half of what it was previously. Additional cuts were made to the Homestead Act as well as to tax relief for elders and the poor. “Getting those two things back in will be helpful, and getting revenue sharing back to what it was,” Perry said.

 

If Perry is re-elected to the House of Representatives, she said her focus will continue to be representing all people in the county – a trend that she has kept in common with her fellow Washington County legislators, a group that meets every week to discuss their shared problems. “We work together for all constituents of Washington County, regardless of party. I’m proud of that. As a county, we have a lot to fight sometimes from people that don’t understand us, but we work together on that.”