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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Derby

York County Commissioner Spotlight - Justin Chenette

Vice Chair - District 3: Buxton, Hollis, Old Orchard Beach, and Saco

Where did you grow up and go to school?


I’m a proud product of Saco schools and graduated high school from Thornton Academy, while taking night classes through the University of Southern Maine. I earned a degree in Broadcast News from Lyndon State College, and I received their Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2019. I went on to earn a Post-Baccalaureate Degree in Public Administration from the University of Maine at Augusta and an Executive Certificate in Public Leadership from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, after receiving a fellowship from the David Bohnett Foundation.


What prompted you to decide to serve as a Commissioner for York County Maine Government?


I saw a gap in awareness, knowledge, and accessibility around this level of government. Everywhere I turned people didn’t understand the role of a Commissioner, who their Commissioner was, and the kind of services and responsibilities that county government handled. I knew I wanted to help elevate the incredibly important work taking place and to increase public engagement in the decision-making process. Throughout my life, empowering everyday Mainers of all ages into the political and governmental arenas has been a core of what drives me into public service.



How long have you been a Commissioner?


I was elected to serve as a Commissioner in 2022. I was proud to be sworn into office as the first Millennial and only openly LGBTQ+ individual ever elected to serve on the commission. My first year in office I took on a leadership role as Vice Chair, after being selected by my fellow commissioners. I also serve as the county representative on the Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission.



What do you like most about being a Commissioner?


I enjoy evaluating systems, processes, and policies to ensure they are efficient and effective for the public we serve. While a Maine legislator, I was known at the State House for going line by line though budget items and statutory language to close loopholes and strengthen resource management. I bring that same level of detail to my work as a Commissioner. I’m a policy wonk at heart.


Our tax abatement hearings are some of our most direct ways of having an impact on the lives of our constituents. We hear from both the town and taxpayer coming before us to make their case. It’s our role to weigh the facts and determine an outcome that is in line with our obligations set forth by the state. I do enjoy when we are ultimately able to help the taxpayer and hold town officials accountable, when the case calls for it.


What do you like to do in your spare time?


As a state appointee, I work to increase public access and transparency in government on the Maine Right to Know Advisory Committee. Every year I award college scholarships to graduating high school students in my commission district through my nonprofit foundation. I am a board member of Age Friendly Saco, Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce and Buxton-Hollis Historical Society. As founder of the Maine Democracy Project and author of the children’s book ‘The Great Whoopie Pie Debate: A Kids’ Guide to the Maine Legislature,’ I frequently visit classrooms and speak to youth groups to promote civics education.



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