Senator Rotundo and Governor Baldacci toast her Moxie bill during the bill’s signing. Moxie became the state’s official soda.

April/May 2006

By Ramona du Houx

Working through the dawn hours, trying to broker a sensible solution with Republicans over the budget, is often a thankless job — not noticed by the majority of people who are fast asleep, not appreciated half as much as it should be. Last year negotiations dragged on for weeks leaving many key legislators ill. Once the budget was done, Sen. Peggy Rotundo had lost her voice but continued smiling in her amiable way, exuding confidence and a sense of true accomplishment.

Rotundo’s deep commitment to democracy stems from her upbringing. Her mother and father instilled in her a great sense of responsibility to the people, encouraged her and showed her the value of teaching. They fostered a commitment to social and economic justice which spoke to the senator’s soul. Her father was the son of Italian immigrants, who came to America to start a new life, and was a devoted public servant on the school board. Widowed with three children, her mother eventually earned a PhD and had the distinction of becoming the first woman to teach during peacetime at Union College. Most women during this time were expected to stay at home. The senator gladly took the torch passed to her from her mother and is a leading light of reason as chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, and as a member of the State and Local Government Committee.

She also works at Bates College in Lewiston where she established service-learning programs which have gained national recognition for their effectiveness.

Rotundo enjoys job shadowing days where constituents can see first hand what it’s like to work in state government. She inspires youth naturally. She frequently speaks to youth groups, encouraging them to think about a career in public service.

As co-chair, with Rep. John Patrick, of the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission she stresses the importance of states becoming more involved in international trade issues.

“We are a nonpartisan group, comprised of people from various backgrounds, who believe in and understand the importance of international trade and the critical role it will play in the future of Maine,” stated Rotundo. “The trade agreements that are negotiated must, however, be fair to Maine workers and small business people in our state. They also must not get in the way of Maine’s ability to make laws to protect the health and well- being of its people.”

The Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission was established by the Maine Legislature in ’04 to assess and monitor the legal and economic impacts of trade agreements on state and local laws, working conditions, and the business environment. The commission also provides a mechanism for citizens and legislators to voice their concerns and recommendations and to make policy recommendations designed to protect Maine’s jobs, the business environment, and laws from any negative impact of trade agreements.

“We believe that trade agreements should be negotiated in a public and transparent manner; safeguard local and state lawmaking authority and level the playing field for small businesses in Maine and elsewhere; guard against the unintended consequences of agreements that impede access to basic human services such as education, heath care, energy and water,” said the senator. “Also, to promote and strengthen basic human rights, labor rights, and environmental rights, protecting and raising standards in developing countries in order to prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ which hurts Maine businesses, workers, and communities.”

The senator is deeply committed to her work, always encouraging, with grace and fortitude. She brings dignity and integrity to negotiations and has a unique way of bringing members back to the focal point of discussion. The senator is a true stateswoman.

It’s no surprise that Eleanor Roosevelt is a role model. “She always spoke her mind, had a big heart and showed the nation that Democrats help to give a hand up to those in need,” said Rotundo, who could have been speaking about herself.