Woolwich Democrat Allison Hepler is challenging two-term House District 53 Rep. Jeff Pierce, R – Dresden. The district serves Woolwich, Dresden, Arrowsic, Phippsburg, Georgetown and part of Richmond.
Hepler said she decided to run for two reasons. “One is, I think that we can’t afford not to invest in Maine and her people, and I’ve also had a lot of opportunities come my way and ... I think everybody deserves access to everything that this state has to offer,” including education and health care.
She said she would like to see greater opportunities in education, including expansion of vocational-technical programs in schools and more community college programs that ally directly with employers. "That is a good way of making sure we are preparing people for jobs that are going to exist."
As for health care access, Hepler said, “That’s the most common thing that I have heard about from knocking on doors, and I’ve been doing this since February.” She said the situations have included a young, full-time worker who has aged out of his parents’ health insurance but isn’t making enough to afford the subsidized parts of the Affordable Care Act. “So Medicaid expansion would really help him. It would also help people who just make a little bit more than what qualifies for Mainecare.”
Hepler said improved health care access is the right thing to do and the right move economically, so people “can put their productivity and creativity into paid work rather than worrying about how they’re going to be able to pay the doctor or prescription drugs.”
She said the other reason she decided to run is she wants Maine to be more solar energy-friendly. The state has been backward on it, she said. Woolwich now has a small solar array but, had a bill passed in the last session, “We would have been able to put up a much larger, community solar array on the top of the landfill.”
Like health care access, broadband and renewable energy can both aid the economy and the state can play a role in expanding them, she said. “Most of Maine is small businesses, and anything we can do to promote entrepreneurship is great.”
The Woolwich selectman said she would approach the state budget as she and the rest of the board do the local one: Prioritizing, with the taxpayer in mind. “This is not my money. And I think I’ve done a good job of balancing the services that residents want and need with the realization that these are taxpayer dollars.” In some cases, accessing federal funds can help, she said.
State contract awards need a lot more transparency, which could result in savings, she said.
Hepler added, just as she has done while learning local budgeting, she expects to ask questions about the state budget that help take a fresh look. Just because something may have been done a certain way for 10, 15, or 20 years doesn’t mean it’s still the best idea, she said. “Undoubtedly there are programs that are no longer needed, or that there are more efficient ways of doing.” As a historian, she loves research and is good at it, she said. “I am someone who is not committed to party or one particular ideology. I’m interested in working together.”
Hepler said she has been on the select board since 2012 and before that served on the planning board and the town’s comprehensive plan committee. She grew up outside Philadelphia and has lived in Woolwich 35 years. She has been teaching for two decades at University of Maine at Farmington and works part-time at Shelter Institute in Woolwich. She is a board member and secretary of Woolwich Historical Society and Maine’s First Ship, a nonprofit recreating the Virginia, Maine’s first English-built ship, and promoting the maritime heritage, she said.