Dixfield state rep resigns, cites mill

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DIXFIELD – Randy E. Hotham, a Republican state legislator who represented the District 93 towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Mexico and Peru for about five years, has resigned, effective Aug. 1.

The move, according to a voice mail left by Hotham as he disembarked from a plane in Chicago on Monday afternoon, is because of the time he needs to do the job properly. His employer, NewPage Corp., no longer pays legislators to serve.

Two other NewPage employees – Rep. John Patrick, D-Rumford, and Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield – both said they intend to serve out their terms.

“Because of the increased responsibility at the mill, they have asked me to dedicate full time to my job at the mill. That’s the job that pays the bills,” Hotham said by telephone.

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He said being a representative, something he said he has enjoyed for the past five years, takes considerable time.

“This was not an easy decision to make. Serving in the legislature is a high honor and privilege, and I have enjoyed working on behalf of my constituents,” he said in a statement. “These are demanding times in the paper industry. The increased time my job requires would affect my ability to serve my constituents in the way they deserve, and I could not let that happen. Since serving in the Legislature is not a full-time position, I must rely on my regular job to make a living and provide for my family.”

Hotham is a salaried NewPage employee who provides technical assistance to mill customers.

He said in the statement that he had checked with local mill management for approval to continue in the legislative position prior to each campaign.

“With each campaign, that decision has been more difficult for management to make,” he said in the statement.

Diane Johanson, executive secretary for the House Minority Office in Augusta, said the Secretary of State must declare a vacancy for the district’s legislative seat. An election to replace Hotham for the year left on his term will likely take place in November, she said.

She said Hotham had sent letters explaining his decision to constituents in the five towns on Saturday and Monday.

Tony Lyons, spokesman for the mill, said it was a personal decision by Hotham to resign.

“The most recent union contract allows employees to take a leave of absence without pay to serve in the Legislature,” he said.

Hotham is not a union member, but Lyons said the agreement was to treat all employees the same.

Two other representatives from Oxford County are NewPage employees.

Rep. Patrick represents District 92, which includes Andover, Byron, Roxbury, Rumford and Weld, and Rangeley and Sandy River plantations. Sen. Bryant represents most of Oxford County.

Lyons said Patrick and Bryant will be grandfathered under the past contract so they may serve out the remainder of the their terms through 2008.

“We would have treated everyone equitably,” he said. “I can’t comment on Hotham’s decision.”

“We are in a competitive environment. We want them here contributing to the success of the company,” he said of the change in the contract. “It’s a personal decision by each to balance work, family and service.”

Whether working at a paper mill and serving in the legislature could be considered a conflict of interest, as some thought last year when Tom Saviello, U-Wilton, an employee of the now-Verso Paper, was discussed, Lyons said, “This is not an issue we want to get into.”

Patrick said he was disappointed that Hotham was leaving the legislature.

“He’s done a good job. I’m sorry the mill took the money away,” he said.

He said he believes he can continue to serve in the legislature while maintaining his job as a maintenance mechanic because there are other maintenance people in his department.

“There are other people who can do my job,” he said.

This is his fourth and final term under the term limits law so he won’t be affected by the contract change. But if he should decide to run for a Senate seat, it would.

Bryant said he doesn’t understand why local management made the chance to serve in the Legislature non-negotiable.

“It seems penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said the senator who is serving his third term.

If he decides to run for a fourth term, he said perhaps things will change to find some middle ground.

“It seems in the best interest of the mill and community to allow legislative service. This seems shortsighted,” he said. “Randy did a good job for the area. To change his level of compensation is too bad.”

Patrick said the Democrat and Republican committees must now caucus to determine candidates for the position.

Attempts to reach Local 900 union President Gary Hemingway were unsuccessful.

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