LEWISTON — For 18 years, Jim Handy has been a Lewiston School Committee member, spending countless Monday nights in meetings.

Tonight — Dec. 14 — is his last.

Handy lost the Ward 4 seat to challenger Benjamin Martin in the Nov. 3 election.

“I was disappointed,” Handy said.

He said he’s proud of his campaign and respects the political process.

While there are many who have served for years on school committees, 18 consecutive years — nine terms — isn’t terribly common.


Handy ran for the School Committee in 1997 after serving 12 years in the Maine Legislature. He’s often been school board chairman; he hasn’t kept track of how many times.

Schools, students and families have changed since he first came on the committee,” Handy said. “Change is the only constant in schools. Teachers and administrators are challenged more than ever with more students with higher needs.”

Teachers and administrators are meeting many needs — much is going right in Lewiston schools, Handy said during an exit interview.

Listing what’s going right, Handy pointed out Lewiston has built two new elementary schools, Farwell and Geiger, plus the Green Ladle Culinary Center. In 2019, another new elementary school is scheduled to open.

Lewiston started public pre-kindergarten classes, an issue Handy worked on as a legislator. Watching pre-K classes open in 2007 “was the beginning of my dream come true,” Handy said. “We’re doing very well in Lewiston filling our slots.”

He praised former Superintendent Leon Levesque and Superintendent Bill Webster, who created and expanded the pre-K program.


“They, like myself, see children as our mission,” he said. “It is all about the kids.”

Another program that makes Handy smile is the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, which receives strong support from the School Committee. High school students learn about a variety of subjects, such as police work, electrical engineering and auto mechanics at LRTC.

“I’m so proud and thrilled we now have most of LRTC programs tied to earning a credential,” Handy said. “That is so important. Not everybody is going to enter college. Some will go into the world of work.”

His son attended LRTC and the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Today, his son works as head chef at the Wild Duck Pub in Topsham.

“It’s so cool,” Handy said.

Another accomplishment for Lewiston schools is building more in-house programs for students with autism, which means fewer students attend out-of-district programs. That saves taxpayers money, “but for me, it’s about people,” Handy said. “It means the children and families are in this community together.”


As chairman, Handy represented Lewiston schools opposing a proposed charter school and referendums to legalize marijuana and allow a casino in Lewiston. All failed.

Part of leadership is taking on issues outside the school department that could hurt students and families, Handy said.

“We had to show a united front,” he said.

Problems that will continue in Lewiston schools include the budget, which is never big enough to meet all of the district’s needs.

Handy said he wished the School Committee had more autonomy from the City Council over school budgets, but also said city schools have been fortunate to have council support.

What taxpayers can afford to pay must be considered when passing a school budget, Handy said, but too often some have a mindset that education doesn’t need more money year to year.


“Costs aren’t static in education, like they aren’t static in business,” he said. “Education is the best economic development tool we have, to have programs flexible enough to bring out strengths of our students to find their niche. As we do that, they become better students.”

When asked what’s next for him, Handy said now he’s busy with six-day work weeks for his employer, LL Bean.

After the shopping season ends, Handy acknowledges he’ll have time on his hands.

“I’m sure there’ll be opportunities to serve my community,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.”

He serves on a number of committees, including literacy volunteers and the building committee for the new school.

“I’ll have my Monday nights back,” he said, joking he’ll be able to watch “Dancing With the Stars.”


He paused. “There will be a void,” Handy said. He’ll miss committee work.

“I’m grateful to have been able to serve my constituents as long as I have.”

He offered advice for those who follow, to remember why they’re there.

“What you do will impact the lives of children and families of Lewiston public schools and our community,” he said.


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