The car carrying President Joe Biden and Maine Gov. Janet Mills pulls out of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport on Friday in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

AUBURN — For a lot of local officials, it was their first time meeting a sitting U.S. president.

Only a lucky few, like Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque and Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline, were able to greet President Joe Biden on the tarmac after Marine One touched down at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

But for Auburn Councilor Steve Milks, shaking the hand of the president following his speech at Auburn Manufacturing was “a tremendous honor.”

“Politics doesn’t matter in situations like this,” he said. “When you meet the most powerful person in the world and the leader of our country, it’s a tremendous honor.”

Milks, like Levesque, also believes Biden’s visit shows that what policymakers at Auburn City Hall have been doing is “resonating.”

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque welcomes President Joe Biden to an event on Friday at Auburn Manufacturing, Inc. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“It supports what we’re doing here,” he said. “We’re pro-growth, pro-business, and creating jobs. It was exciting to have the president of the United States in the city of Auburn.”


Levesque, who was the first speaker during Friday’s event, said he’d been asked all week “Why Auburn?” regarding Biden’s visit.

But, he said, “Auburn has proactively practiced bottom-up economics now for years,” mirroring the President’s “Bidenomics” speech later on. Levesque also said Auburn has “eliminated zoning barriers” that have led to new workforce housing.

Following Biden’s speech, Levesque said he had initially been surprised when he learned Biden would be visiting Auburn. But he said he wasn’t surprised to learn it would be highlighting Auburn Manufacturing.

“If there’s any one business in Maine to highlight, to show that we can go through challenges and adversity, it’s this one,” he said about Auburn Manufacturing and its founder, Kathie Leonard. “It’s amazing what she did with everything stacked against her.”

A number of Auburn city councilors were also present, including Dana Staples, Ryan Hawes and Leroy Walker. State Rep. Adam Lee of Auburn, chatting with Lewiston state Rep. Kristen Cloutier, said a sitting president’s visit to a small city like Auburn doesn’t happen very often.

Other invitees and guests included officials from the nonprofit Community Concepts and Bates College. Also in attendance was actor Patrick Dempsey, who caught the attention of the White House press corps.


Gov. Janet Mills, center, poses for a photo Friday with Jonathan LaBonte, former mayor and manager at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, left, and Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque while awaiting President Joe Biden’s arrival. Submitted photo

Following the event, Mayor Sheline said it was “a lot of fun.” He spoke to Biden briefly on the tarmac and again during the event. He said he told him that he “appreciated his administration’s support for Ukraine” and then Biden told him, “It hasn’t been easy but the coalition is stronger than ever.”

“I think President Biden’s visit speaks to the ingenuity and work ethic of the Maine people and we’re honored that he was here to recognize the importance of manufacturing in the Lewiston-Auburn area,” Sheline said.

Before Biden took the stage, U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, mentioned Lewiston during his speech, recounting his recent visit just this week to cover the groundbreaking at the Choice Neighborhoods development in the Tree Streets neighborhood. King said both cities are building much-needed housing to support a growing workforce that fuels the economy.

Prior to Biden’s arrival, Sheline and Levesque waited along with Gov. Janet Mills at Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, taking a few pictures. Levesque snapped one with the governor and airport manager Jonathan LaBonte in front of a sign that said “Auburn Maine welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden.”

While waiting, Sheline spent a few minutes chatting with Gregory Glenn, a White House advance associate who was in charge of the president’s motorcade between the airport and Auburn Manufacturing.

Sheline gave Glenn a “Lewiston leads” coin to give to Biden.

“You can’t just hand stuff to the president,” he said.

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