Lebel Auburn’s Citizen of Year

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AUBURN – Ron Lebel, attorney and civic leader, was named 2006 Auburn Citizen of the Year at a dinner at Lost Valley Thursday night.

Lebel is the 34th recipient of the Auburn Business Association’s honor.

Dozens of friends, co-workers and ABA members gathered to pay tribute to Lebel for his community accomplishments.

In his presentation of a key to the city, Mayor Normand Guay said, “this award really highlights the quality of the people we have in this community.”

At that point, the mayor’s remarks turned tongue-in-cheek, saying he felt he should be careful what he said because Lebel would be getting the last chance to speak.

Lebel is known for his quick and sometimes sharp wit. A continuing theme of the evening was the opportunity to roast Lebel.

Master of ceremonies Chip Morrison, executive director of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, took several jabs at Lebel.

Barbara Trafton, Lebel’s longtime friend and colleague through Auburn Public Library fundraising activities, showed a video collection of photos. They began with shots of young Lebel on Santa’s knee and progressed through high school, college and several vacation trips with friends. Trafton kidded Lebel about his “fashion trend setting” and his reputation as a “bon vivant.”

Bryan Dench, an attorney with Lebel in the firm of Skelton, Tainter and Abbott, talked about Lebel’s dedication to running and cited his skills as a lawyer. He got in some humorous licks by reading fictitious telegrams to Lebel, such as one from Simon Crowell – “You can’t sing. You can’t dance. So what are you doing here?”

Another phony telegram was from President Bush, who called him “Rod” and praised him for being “Austin’s” citizen of the year, adding, “I didn’t even know you were from Texas.”

Although several speakers hinted that this was to be a royal roast of Lebel, the evening didn’t allow enough time for it to happen. There were too many sincere expressions of appreciation for Lebel’s personal qualities and contributions to the community.

When Lebel’s turn came, he couldn’t resist the chance to skewer some of the speakers for their “treachery and deceit.”

He said, “I think I am now pretty much ready to die,” noting that the program had his picture and read like an obituary.

He graciously thanked everyone for the honor given him and concluded by saying, “If I have any particular talent, it’s to surround myself with extraordinary people.”

Lebel, the youngest of three brothers, was born in Lewiston in 1949 and grew up in Auburn, graduating from Edward Little High School in 1967.

In 1971, Lebel graduated with high distinction from UMO. In 1971, he married Joanne Lavoie, a fellow classmate in both high school and college. They moved to Boston so that Lebel could attend Boston College Law School where he graduated cum laude.

In 1974, the couple moved back to Maine where he began his legal career at Rocheleau and Fournier, P.A. where he later became an officer and a shareholder. In 1995, he joined Skelton, Taintor and Abbott as a director and shareholder.

Lebel’s civic contributions include serving as chairman of Lewiston’s Zoning Board of Appeals from 1976-80. He was a member of the Lewiston Finance Committee from 1980-81.

He served as an Androscoggin County commissioner from 1980-84 and as its chairman from 1981-82, as chairman of Auburn’s Charter Commission in 1990. He has served as director and chair of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

In 1979, Lebel was co-chair of Citizens for Charter Reform, the group that led the successful referendum campaign to adopt Lewiston’s City Charter. In 2005, He was presented with the Ray Geiger Award by the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

Lebel also served on the Building Campaign Committee of the Auburn Public Library’s recent capital campaign and has joined Central Maine Community College’s Foundation board of directors.

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