Dickerson's platform rests on pillars of education, infrastructure, health care
Rockland — Elizabeth Dickerson said she believes the underlying solution to improving Maine's economy is education.
"You get a 14 to 1 return if you educate someone well," she said in a recent interview. "Education is the answer to a lot of our woes."
Dickerson is the Democratic candidate for the House District 47 seat being vacated by State Rep. Ed Mazurek, D-Rockland, who is leaving office owing to term limits. She is being challenged by Republican Gordon P. Mank Jr.
A computer science teacher at Oceanside High School-East for two years, Dickerson also has been on the Rockland City Council for four years.
"Education is one of my three pillars for the economy," she said, offering up a metaphorical structure. "The other two are health care and infrastructure."
"We need to do a better job of graduating kids for the 21st century," she stressed.
Recognizing that one pillar alone will not provide support for her platform, she said she places equal emphasis on putting a technological and ecological infrastructure in place, and addressing high energy costs.
Dickerson said she believes her life's work as a public advocate for political and community issues has prepared her to become a member of the Maine Legislature.
"I'm good at the craft of legislation, and I'm good at data research," she said. A graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in music from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and an associates degree in computer science from Kennebec Valley Community College, Dickerson said she has always been passionate about doing the right thing.
"I'm a hard worker and not afraid to use my skills as an organizer," she said.
"One of the highest callings in life is to be of service," she said. "I feel there are issues in Maine, such as education, that are not being addressed if we want our students to be competitive in the nation — and the world."
"We've fallen into a state of complacency," she said.
While on the council she has sponsored legislation that led to people being able to participate in Efficiency Maine's PACE home energy efficiency program, giving them access to low-cost loans for weatherization of homes and upgrading heating systems. Rockland was the site of the first PACE project in Maine.
"Maine is spending too much money on heating costs," she said. "We need to look at alternative energy and do more with weatherization."
Turning to health care, Dickerson she said she sponsored a city council resolve based on a bill by Mazurek that passed in the state Legislature. Although her resolve failed, she made her point on the need for health care.
"The city of Rockland spends more than $1 million a year on health care costs," she said. "The problem is, we have a system in place to save insurance companies money when we should be spending it on actual health care."
"One of the reasons Canada is competing with us on lobsters is they have universal health care," she said.
She is critical of Gov. Paul LePage for his recent cost-cutting measures. The governor cut $2.7 million from the state's settlement with the tobacco industry from the Fund for a Healthy Maine, which funded health coordinators in 27 schools in the state, she said.
Oceanside health coordinator and football coach Woody Moore last year became one of the casualties for those cuts, she said, because he lost his job as health coordinator and could not afford to stay on as head football coach. (His position was since reinstated.)
"Health coordinators were making huge, huge strides getting kids to be healthy," she said.
"We're about to have a diabetes epidemic because of childhood obesity," she said. "This kind of nonsense has to stop."
She also blames the governor for holding up job growth. She cited the $400,000 economic development grant that the city was awarded for improving the Thorndike building in Rockland. When Gov. Paul LePage held up the money for the grant, he held up jobs, she said.
"That's money that was approved by the voters," she said. "What right did he have to hold it back?"
"Our state is so creative, and our state makes it possible to be creative. We have an elderly workforce who offers so many opportunities to employers," she said.
Returning to education, Dickerson said the schools need to show students how to be entrepreneurs.
"Some of the problems in Augusta are not related to budget cuts, however," she said.
Dickerson she recently had to drive to Augusta to straighten out a problem with her teacher certification because an employee in the Department of Education would not walk across a hall and fax her a document.
"It was stupid and wasteful — all that gas I spent," she said. "The institution has become too cumbersome."
She said there is a bureaucratic mentality in Augusta that defies creativity. "We rely too much on what has been done in the past," she said. "We have this same old, same old head set for budgeting. We never think about which services we're going to provide."
On the subject of the Tea Party, she said she has little experience with the group.
"They came to council because they got excited about Gateway 1, but I've never been to one of their meetings, and I don't plan to go to one," she said.
"I represent everyone, and I try to represent where they are coming from," she said.
"We face a problem of intolerance in this state — look at the marriage equality issue. We need to celebrate our differences," she said.
"I think that issue will pass at the polls this time, even if it doesn't pass in the Legislature," she said. "It's just a matter of time."
Dickerson said that if she is elected to the Legislature, her plan is to serve out the remaining two years of her City Council position.
A mother of two, a 24-year-old daughter Penelope and 14-year-old son Rory, Dickerson lives in Rockland with her partner, Guy Polybrank.
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or firstname.lastname@example.org.