Southwest Harbor teacher’s own addiction and life experience sharpen his focus on health care, opioid crisis.
Editor’s note: This is the third of four profiles running weekly in the Sunday edition on the candidates for Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat.
At age 24, Will Hoar was dying.
“I had the blood pressure of an unhealthy 90-year-old with a failing liver,” the Southwest Harbor educator said. “I wasn’t quite alive or dead. I had lost the will to live.”
He was in such sad shape he had to give up plans to haul lobster traps because he “was too drunk to even make it onto the boat.”
At rock bottom in Maine, the New York native found a path to recovery — a long, hard haul that ultimately led him to graduate from Columbia University and find his way to Maine again, a place he had loved visiting his whole life.
Now 35 and married, a happy, healthy Hoar is again facing long odds as one of four candidates vying for Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat that’s been held since 2014 by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is seeking re-election. Also in the running in the Nov. 6 election are Democrat Jared Golden and independent Tiffany Bond.
Hoar, running as an independent, moved to Maine two years ago but has been visiting his whole life. He even met his California-born wife, Olivia Wolf, years ago at age 9 in Northeast Harbor.
He told a Mt. Desert Island political forum this spring that his problems with substance abuse led him to run for Poliquin’s seat.
Hoar said he wanted others coping with alcohol and drug addictions to know “there is a future” for them if they can break the cycle.
“I felt called to do something,” he said in a recent interview.
Hoar said his most pressing concern is to take action against an opioid epidemic that is draining “the lifeblood” of too many Maine communities, ravaging families as it claims more than a life a day in the Pine Tree State.
What’s needed, Hoar said, is a multi-pronged approach that ensures people dealing with substance abuse have ways to get treatment, including new facilities to help them get the rehabilitation they need.
Part of the solution is a health-care issue because too many Mainers are suffering without any means to pay for the assistance they need, Hoar said.
He began thinking of running for the U.S. House when Poliquin voted last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a move that would have added tens of thousands more Mainers to the rolls of the uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office,
In addition to his personal experience with addiction, Hoar said, he’s been through many other things that have helped him understand what people go through, from applying for food stamps to getting laid off.
Hoar ultimately graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a degree in American history.
Before he got there, though, during what he called his “extended gap years,” he “accrued a lifetime of experience.”
Though his family had good jobs as investment bankers in New York, Hoar said, he “obviously strayed. I never wanted to be a banker. It just didn’t appeal to me.”
But for a long while, he didn’t quite know what to do instead.
As part of his rehabilitation, Hoar said, he had to make it on his own, paying his own way through Columbia while working at a variety of jobs, including stints at retailers such as Cartier, Sotheby’s and Ralph Lauren.
At one point, he said, he was clearing tables at a Panera Bread outlet in Florida, qualified for food stamps and worried about how he would eat. He feared what would happen if he needed to head to a hospital for anything.
All around him were other people “barely scraping by,” Hoar said.
It was a long way from Wall Street.
Later, as he studied for his degree in American history, Hoar volunteered at nonprofits focused on construction and property redevelopment and looked into the possibility of becoming an actor.
“My only regret from these formative years is turning down the opportunity to be a shepherd in New Zealand,” he said.
Hoar began working as a teacher on Mount Desert Island two years ago after he and his wife agreed to fulfill their dream of moving to Maine, a place he called his “forever home.”
Hoar works at Tremont Consolidated School in special education.
On his campaign website, he mentions that he is “an outdoor enthusiast” who “enjoys hiking, photography and skiing.”
An ardent environmentalist, Hoar serves on the boards of The Acadia Family Center and the Summer Festival of the Arts and supports the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
Looking back at what he’s had to overcome since he embraced sobriety on Sept. 16, 2007, Hoar said, “I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.”
This is the third of four profiles of the candidates for Maine’s 2nd District congressional race.
Sept. 2: Tiffany Bond, independent
Today: Jared Golden, Democrat
Sept. 16: Will Hoar, independent
Sept. 23: Bruce Poliquin, Republican