Mills appoints Hannah Pingree as innovation director, urges Mainers to 'take the long view'

BY Maureen Milliken

Courtesy / Office of Gov. Janet Mills
Courtesy / Office of Gov. Janet Mills
Former House Speaker Hannah Pingree, daughter of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, has been nominated by Gov. Janet Mills to lead what will become the Office of Innovation and the Future.

Gov. Janet Mills moved Thursday on one of the first changes she promised as governor with the appointment of Hannah Pingree, former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, to lead what will become the Office of Innovation and the Future.
Pingree, 42, of North Haven, was appointed director of the state’s Office of Policy Management, which will transition into the new office. She is a daughter of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District.
Mills was expected to complete her cabinet today.
Mills initially announced she would create the Office of Innovation and the Future in her inaugural address.
Thursday afternoon, as keynote speaker at the Maine Real Estate and Development Association annual forecast conference, she reiterated her goals for Pingree and the new office.
“It’s time to invest in our future,” she told the nearly 1,000 gathered, “I’m asking everyone in the state to take the long view.”
The office will “dive into major policy challenges, foster collaboration and propose concrete, workable solutions” to the state’s problems, she said earlier in the day when she announced Pingree’s appointment.
Pingree will be responsible for developing a more detailed framework for the new office in the coming months and then proposing that framework to the Legislature for its consideration. The office will bring back some of the essential functions of the former State Planning Office.
At the real estate conference, she reiterated what she said earlier Thursday when she’d appointed Pingree: “This office will lead the charge in charting our state’s path forward on critical issues like health care, workforce development, and climate change.”
“As of [Friday] I’ll have completed the selection of my cabinet,” she said.
She said her cabinet, for which confirmation hearings will begin in the coming weeks, is “a quality group.”
“In my office, and in in the offices of my cabinet members, there’s an open door,” she added.
Pingree said in a news release that she’s honored to lead Mills’ “efforts to restore forward-looking strategic planning to state government.”
“From the cost of health care to climate change to our workforce shortage, Maine faces a set of serious challenges,” Pingree said. “But inherent in those challenges are also opportunities to marshal the collective power of state government to address them and begin charting a course for a better future. I am excited by the opportunity to work on these issues and look forward to working with the governor create the Office of Innovation and the Future for the betterment of our state.”
In addition to developing a plan for the creation of the new office, Pingree will also be responsible for helping advance Mills’ key policy priorities that will require cross-department coordination; long-term management and strategic planning; coordination with federal or private funding; engagement with the legislature, stakeholder organizations and the public; and policy research and study. Examples of these issues include, but are not limited to: climate and energy, early childhood education, workforce development, broadband, rural economic development, health policy, and opioid policy, the release said.
At the MEREDA conference, Mills also emphasized a focus on finding ways to strengthen the state’s workforce. That includes partnerships with businesses and other stakeholders to bridge the skills gap that keeps many businesses from filling positions, and keeps many of the state’s residents in low-paying jobs.
Mills also stressed how her move to release senior housing bonds that had been approved by the Legislature in 2015 would create more than 200 needed affordable housing units in the state, as well as renovate 100 that are not accessible.
“It’s still a small dent,” she said. “We need to expand senior housing so every Mainer can live affordably in their own home.”
In stressing her theme of looking to the future, Mills twice quoted poet Mary Oliver, who died Thursday.
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” she said, quoting Oliver’s poem “Evidence.”
And the end of her talk, Mills asked, again quoting Oliver, “What is it you wish to do with this wild and precious life of yours?”
Mills added, “I know what I want to do with mine.”
She said she hoped those in the crowd, too, were focused on the state’s future.

Hannah Pingree was speaker of the Maine House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010 and also was the House Majority Leader, chair of the Committee on Health and Human Services, and a member of the Appropriations Committee.
She has also managed several family small businesses, including a farm, restaurant and inn; led several education and housing campaigns in her community; managed the development and implementation of rural housing, energy efficiency, and eldercare projects for a small local coalition of nonprofits; chairs the MSAD 7 school board; and serves or has served on several state and local community and non-profit boards. She earned a degree in political science from Brown University and lives in North Haven with her husband and two children.