Mank would coordinate education, home-grown businesses to create a stable economy
Rockland — Gordon P. Mank Jr. said he wants to serve on public safety, transportation and environmental committees when he gets to the state Legislature because those three topics represent his life's work and interests.
Mank, a Republican, is being opposed by Democratic challenger Elizabeth Dickerson, also of Rockland, for the House District 47 seat in the Nov. 6 election. The district covers Rockland and part of Owls Head.
Mank spoke with The Courier-Gazette recently from his home at 26 Orchard St.
Mank, 46, has been criticized by some interests claiming he is not a Rockland resident –– and therefore should not represent the district –– because of his job as administrator of the Mid-Coast Hospitality House homeless shelter in Rockport.
His job requires him to sleep at the shelter away from his former home on Grace Street, he has said repeatedly. His contention is that his situation is no different from someone's in the military who is required to be away from home, but who claims his or her hometown anyway.
"My wife and I in 2005 knew were were going to settle in Rockland when we bought our house on Grace Street," he said. "We actually decided we were going to live in Rockland, Maine, when we got married in 1989. We bought our house in Rockland in 2005 to make sure we had a home to go to."
His new home on Orchard Street is in the same neighborhood where he grew up at the home of his parents on Center Street, he said in his interview.
As a symbolic quip to his critics, Mank has hung a baseball cap on the pillar of his stairway in his living room.
"Home is where I hang my hat," he said with a laugh.
Mank said he is running for office to make positive changes in Augusta to help his community in economic growth.
"It’s in the interest of the legislators to look out for their own districts," he said. "If I’m elected I would like to work to make changes that will benefit Midcoast Maine."
Mank considers himself to be pro-business. He grew up in a family that is in business. His father owned a car dealership and auto parts salvage yard. His mother was a hairdresser.
"I grew up in a middle class family with both parents working," he said. "I’ve worked since I was a youngster."
After he graduated from the former Rockland District High School in 1984, he worked with his father at Mank’s Car Sales before he joined the Marine Corps.
He said served four years on active duty in the Marines and two years in the Reserves. His term was extended because of the Gulf War, but he said he was not sent to the Gulf War in 1991.
"My six year obligation would have ended in 1990, but everybody got froze until that war got resolved. I was discharged as a sergeant in 1991," he said.
Following his discharge, Mank worked as a prison guard at the Maine State Prison before becoming executive director of the Midcoast Hospitality House homeless shelter in Rockport 13 years ago.
“We’ve been in community service for more than 20 years,” he said, referring to himself and his wife, Samantha. The couple has three children.
He has been the harbormaster in Thomaston since April 2006, and he served as a Thomaston selectman in the 1990s.
On government services that might be privatized in the state, one of the questions both candidates have been asked, Mank said, "That’s not something I have a background in, so I would have to look into it.
"I worked for the Maine State Prison for four years, and there was talk about privatizing that, although the Legislature turned that idea down," he said.
"Obviously, health care would be another program that would come under privatization review," he said.
"One needs to research both sides of an issue, and then vote one’s conscience in the best interests of the constituents," he said.
As for private services that might be taken over by the government, Mank said he could not think of one. While he has an overall belief that government should be reduced in size whenever possible, he believes that there are some situations that require both federal and state support, he said.
On supporting a plan to kick Medicaid back to the states, Mank said he doesn’t believe that would be a good plan.
"I think you need both. You need the federal support as well as the state support," he said.
On women’s health issues, including abortions, he said women’s health issues should be between women and their physicians.
"I know that when I was younger, my position would have been different. But now as a married man with a wife and children, I look at things from a different perspective," he said.
On a Republican idea that identification should be strengthened at the polls, he still believes that local control is the best remedy for potential fraud.
"Fraud does exist, but it’s been my experience – and I’ve voted since I was 18 – at the local polls and in the military, and I’ve observed the people who work as election wardens and clerks have been dedicated. They live in the community, and they know who you are," he said.
"My own experience is proof of that when I won the primary by two votes from two communities. They had to count right," he said.
Why aren’t there more jobs in Maine? "That’s a two-part question," he replied. "The large corporations that come in get a lot of the money that goes back to those corporations," he said.
"Whereas, if you can encourage small businesses to invest, you localize businesses and keep the money in the local economy," he said. "When you have a good economy, everybody can pay their taxes and help lower the mil rate. It’s all connected."
Mank reflected on small business growth. "I remember in the 1980s in Rockland, a lot of the small business stores went out of business, and we had open and wide windows taped up with brown paper," he said.
"Our goal is for every storefront to have a small business in it. We need to make laws in Augusta to encourage entrepreneurship and small businesses," he said. "It’s all connected to our workforce and to education in our area."
Mank said that when MBNA came in, the Maryland bank created a lot of jobs with call centers and improved buildings and then left after a decade.
"What I would like to look for is small businesses with stability," he said.
As a remedy to the longstanding criticism that Maine has been anti-business because of regulations, Mank said he would like to see where cuts could be made to make it easier for businesses to have start-ups and thereby stabilize them.
"I would want to look into what some of the barriers are for some businesses and eliminate the barriers," he said.
Mank is sensitive to his own experience of joining the Marine Corps after high school and then being sent to live on the West Coast.
"A lot of our youths would go out of state and take their skills with them," he said. "We need to work toward bringing the education to our young people so they can get better paying jobs and we can retain them," he added.
He believes Maine has good colleges and schools. Mank just completed an associates degree in justice studies at the University of Maine in Augusta.
On energy, Mank said legislators should encourage people with alternative energy sources in place: windmills, turbine driven tidal power, solar panels, weatherization programs.
"As oil prices continue to rise, we need to keep working on alternative energy sources -- with the help of technology," he stressed.
Environmental protection is important to him. An avid hunter and fisherman in Maine’s north woods, Mank believes communities need to uphold environmental protection for the future of the state, including its marine resources.
He is philosophical about the state's buying private land for parks.
"It depends on where and how much and what the cost of the bonds would be to the state," he said. The timing of the purchases should be looked at in relation to the overall economy.
Turning to the subject of campaign financing, Mank said he has chosen to finance this election on his own, but with some help.
"I haven’t asked for campaign dollars," he said. "I’ve had a $450 donated through the Republican Party, $100 from an individual and $50 from another source. I’ve used $1,000 of my own money."
On welfare, including disability payments and general assistance, Mank said the best thing to do is to look at the overall management and eliminate the fraud. The programs for social services were founded with the right intentions, he said, and are necessary. But there are individuals who don’t need the services and should get a job, he said.
He remembered from very far back when he was in the Marine Corps on the West Coast that one could pick out the work ethic of New Englanders.
Turning to Question 1 on gay marriage, Mank said he thinks that marriage should be a religious matter, and not a government-regulated matter.
"I support a one man, one woman, traditional marriage. I vote my conscience, based on my upbringing, my family values," he said.
Mank said he is not a member of the Tea Party. "I’m aware that the Tea Party exists, but I’ve not been to any of their meetings. I’m not associated with the Tea Party," he said.
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or at email@example.com.