You never know where you're going to find Kaileigh Tara.
From 1998 to 2002, she was mayor in Lewiston and she was everywhere. When her term was over, she continued popping up from time to time. In 2009, we wrote a story about how the former mayor had hit the skids, putting on a lot of weight and becoming unemployed and homeless.
We all muttered about how sad it was, and then we turned around and less than a year later found that through her determination and resilience, she was thinner, employed and cheerful as always, and we told her new story.
Where is she now? About as far as she could be from Lewiston without leaving the country. We caught up with her recently and found her in good health and cheer.
What are you up to these days? I am working with families who have a loved one with dementia (most common form, Alzheimer's) Parkinson's and similar diseases. I make sure they are getting the services and help they need. I do similar work with the Wounded Warrior Battalion, where I actually provide respite care to families of wounded veterans. I love the work I do.
What's your fondest memory of your time as mayor of Lewiston? The people. The work we did together to create a community of excellence. I do miss that sense of "being in it together" and working together, involving a lot of people to accomplish our goals. It was truly rewarding. There are many people I worked with that I miss a lot.
What's your ugliest memory? I do not believe today that anyone would think twice about my having a "mayor" cell phone/bill. Yet I was really attacked for that. Though I did a lot of talking on my cell phone while driving. Doing both full-time jobs as best I could. I do not recommend talking on the cell and driving. The saddest part was some of the rumors and negativity. We still have a problem in our society of women attacking other women who may seem to be acquiring success.
How's the weather in Southern California? Compared to that in New England? The weather where I live, in San Diego, is pretty consistent. Average temps are 65 to 75 year-round. Sometimes a marine layer in the morning and then the sun breaks through. I do not miss Maine snow, ice and cold. Not one bit, but I DO miss a good, loud rain storm complete with thunder and lightening. It is rare for it to pour rain here. But I really love the weather.
Is there anything else you miss about Maine? I miss Maine. It is my mother state. Her people raised me and shaped who I am. I am very grateful for that. I miss so many people there. What has been really painful is to see the damage that Governor (Paul) LePage is doing to our state, which means damage to our people. Maine deserves a leader who leads respectfully, with positive leadership qualities, with a goal of creating a better Maine. It is very painful to watch. My applause to those who are on the front lines fighting this decline of our state's excellence.
In my free time I love going to the beaches, there are many. And there are so many things to do and see here that I am never bored. It has been an interesting learning experience to see how another state handles things like education, health-care access and affordability, housing, transportation, economic development.
I do find it ironic that the mayor of San Diego is on the hot seat for sexual harassment and has done nothing but argue, interfere and even broken the law to exert his power (ego). It seems I can't get away from examples of poor or a complete lack of leadership and statesmanship.