January 7, 2013

Janet Mills relishes second time around as state's attorney general

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- Attorney General Janet Mills, who returned to the seat Monday after a two-year absence, talked about second chances in a speech before family, friends, staff and legislators.

click image to enlarge

Attorney General Janet Mills is applauded by Senate President Justin Alfond, second from right, Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley on Monday at the House chamber in Augusta, after Mills was sworn into the office of as Maine's top law enforcement officer.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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"Today, I'm living proof the state of Maine believes in recycling," she said, drawing laughs from those gathered in the Maine House of Representatives for the swearing-in ceremonies.

Mills, 65, a Farmington native who still lives in her hometown, lost her job as attorney general in 2010 after serving only two years because Democrats were ousted from power. She and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap officially returned to their jobs Monday when Gov. Paul LePage swore them in for new two-year terms now that Democrats once again control the House and Senate.

During her speech in the House, Mills said when she was sworn in in 2009, she was the first attorney general from Franklin County and the first woman to serve as attorney general.

"Am I now the second?" she asked.

Mills is a Farmington High School graduate and earned a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law. She was an assistant attorney general from 1976 to 1980 and prosecuted homicides and other major crimes. She was then elected district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties and in 2002 was elected to the Maine House.

After her two years as attorney general, Mills worked for the law firm Preti Flaherty, where she did a wide variety of legal work.

"I hope my return brings more wisdom than cynicism," she said. "Some of us are blessed with second chances."

She said the job of the attorney general is to represent the interests of the public, not one political party or governor's administration. She called for "integrity, compassion and true transparency," but did not mention the LePage administration's opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act. Her predecessor, William Schneider, sued the Obama administration over the federal health care law, making Maine one of 27 states to do so.

Mills said although there will be disagreements over policy, it's important to find common ground. Her brother, Peter Mills, a Republican, is executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, and her sister, Dora Mills, a physician, is the former head of the Maine Center for Disease Control. Her sister-in-law is Justice Nancy Mills, a Maine Superior Court judge.

"We are citizens of the same state," Janet Mills said. "We have to get along. Let's make the second time around the best time around."

Also Monday, LePage swore in former State Auditor Neria Douglass of Auburn as state treasurer and Pola Buckley of Hallowell as state auditor.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

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