Gov. Janet Mills reacts to a question Thursday posed by Hailey, standing, about lowering the voting age during a visit with youth from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine in the Lewiston Armory. Seated behind Hailey are other young questioners, from the left, Josh, Viktor, Lipp and Devan. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The boy’s name was Josh and he had two questions for Gov. Janet Mills. 

Why, the Auburn Middle School student wanted to know, does Mills like being governor? 

“I get to work with the best people in the world,” Mills told him. “They’re really smart, wonderful people who like to do what they’re doing.” 

Josh’s next question was about the school lunch program and exactly what the governor could do to improve it.  

There followed a lighthearted discussion about pizza; about macaroni and cheese with hot dogs and a whole bunch of food that kids either like or dislike. 

It was that kind of affair. When Mills sat down with a group of kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine at the Lewiston Armory, there were serious moments and light ones. 


One girl, a Lewiston Middle School student named Hailey, wanted to know Mills’ thoughts on the matter of lowering the voting age to 16. Mills provided her thoughts on the issue and then Hailey offered hers. 

“Honestly,” she said, “I don’t think it would be a good idea.” 

The Maine Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs hosted Mills at the youth-led town hall on the upper floor of the armory. The kids, ranging in age between 12 and 18 years old, prepared their questions in advance. Before Mills arrived, they practiced delivering those questions in a backroom. Were they nervous about addressing the governor directly? 

A little bit, said an Auburn Middle School student named Lipp. When his turn came around, though, he was calm and composed as he asked his questions. 

“What can we do,” he asked, “about bullying and drug use in Maine?” 

Mills was impressed with the questions and she had plenty of thoughts on the matter. 


“I’m really interested in getting into schools and doing more prevention programs,” she said. “The problem right now is that fentanyl is everywhere and it’s killing people every day. And I don’t want to see one life lost in this state because of this terrible drug. 

“We’re losing too many people to addiction,” Mills said, “losing too many people to overdose. And I don’t want to see that happen anymore.” 

She had thoughts on bullying, too. 

“I’d like to feel comfortable that when somebody is bullied in school, they should have a place to go and report it,” she said. “Are people brave enough to complain about it going to get bullied worse? I think that would be a problem. We’ve got to overcome that.” 

The questions kept coming and coming, roughly a dozen of them before the kids were through. They asked about pollution, gun violence and financial support for college, among other things. Mills answered each question, often at length, and at the end, she had a question of her own for the kids. Specifically, she wanted to know what it is the Boys & Girls Club did to improve their lives. 

“It lets me connect with people,” Hailey said, “that I never thought I could connect with.” 


“It helps us make friends,” Josh said. 

Several of the students reported that the club helped them with their homework — helped them get caught up and do better at school. Another said the club was a way to get away from personal problems for a while. 

Mills listened to them and then weighed in. 

“I wish I’d had the Boys and Girls Club when I grew up in Farmington,” she said, “a place to go after school to hang out with people and make new friends. I think you’re lucky.” 

The event lasted about an hour and by the time it was finished, none of the kids seemed stiff and intimidated by the presence of a woman elected to Maine’s highest office. That, according to club organizers, was exactly the point. 

“Our youth are poised to be tomorrow’s leaders, problem solvers and innovators,” Brian Elowe, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, said. “It’s important for elected officials to not only seek out the voices of Maine youth, but to look to them for solutions to today’s most pressing issues. 

“Organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs are committed to raising the visibility of the urgent needs of the youth we serve, the value of the programs we provide to the community,” he said. “The support of our elected officials and the community is critical to reaching these goals.”

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