As a Maine native, 30-year Navy veteran, devoted father, and accomplished businessman, I know we need to restore faith in our leadership and our government. I’m committed to being the responsible leader our district deserves — and ensuring our Maine values have an effective voice in Washington.
Today, my wife Julie, our five children ranging in age from 15 to 7, our three dogs and I make our home in North Yarmouth. As it was when I was growing up, my family and their future in Maine continue to be my top priority.
I was born in Hartland Maine to a tight-knit, working class family. I learned early on the Maine values of family and community, and the importance of hard-work and dedication. My mother was a Pittsfield native with deep family roots in that community. My birth father passed away when I was very young, and my mom remarried a Navy jet engine mechanic named Terry Smith who adopted me. Terry is the only father I’ve ever known and I am blessed that he is my father.
With my dad often deployed, and as the older of two boys, I was the “man of the house” when he was gone. As you would expect, all of us had to work hard to keep our household running smoothly.
Before he left on one deployment, Dad pulled me aside. I had just mowed the yard, missing large areas in my haste to be done. He told me that any job worth doing was worth doing well, a theme reinforced frequently during the many hours we spent working on the oft- broken-down 1973 MGB, that I still own!
Doing a job well — whatever it is — is an important Maine value I carry with me today.
I attended the Williams-Cone School in Topsham, and later graduated from Brunswick High School in 1983. Growing up, I loved military history and because of my deep respect for my father and my desire to serve my country, I followed him into the US Navy. I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where I studied nuclear engineering, becoming a student leader as midshipman battalion commander and class secretary.
I was selected for the Navy’s nuclear power program, which led to my assignment on an attack submarine out of Pearl Harbor. I was drawn to it because it is one of the most selective, challenging and demanding professions in the military. It was the closing days of the Cold War, and there was nothing headier than being a 25-year-old officer-of-the-deck during a mission ‘of great significance to the security of the United States.’
While I loved my time aboard ship, like many native Mainers, I knew that I wanted to return to Maine and start a family. I finished my active duty career teaching sonar and tactics to senior officers at the Navy’s Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut and obtained my Master’s in Public Affairs at the University of Connecticut.
While studying public policy I made the decision to apply to law school, coming home to Maine in 1994 to attend the University of Maine School of Law and transitioning to the Navy Reserve. I remember the day I returned home to Brunswick, almost 11 years to the day after I had left for college at Rensselaer.
I began practicing law at Pierce Atwood in Portland after passing the Maine and New Hampshire bars. After learning about finance, real estate, and business deals through my practice, I jumped at the opportunity to work at a great Maine company: Hannaford Brothers, in their legal department.
I was fortunate to work with a terrific team and further expanded my knowledge by learning the world of information technology as their principal lawyer. Right up there with driving submarines, the time I spent at Hannaford ranked as one of the best jobs of my career.
Having married and become a father, I had the joy and challenge of juggling a family, a law practice and the Navy Reserve. Anyone who has shared that experience knows how difficult it is to miss soccer finals for a drill weekend or limit family vacations due to military responsibilities.
That challenge became even greater when I volunteered to be part of our fight in the Global War on Terror. After discussing it with my family, I volunteered, because I believed the call to serve justified the sacrifices, including those that my family would make, to ensure America and the world would be safer for my children.
I left in January 2007 and after combat training, headed to the perfect place for a submarine officer: the desert of East Africa near Somalia and miles from Yemen where I was charged with developing plans to help undercut the roots of extremism in that part of the world. I had the tremendous honor of leading a diverse team of men and women, including officers from our coalition partners who were committed to our common goals. To keep crew morale in tip-top shape, I insisted on importing our coffee to Africa from Maine Coffee Roasters in Yarmouth!
Armed with my legal and public policy background and past experience working with NATO allies from Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, I visited US embassies, working with the country teams, USAID, and even attended a G20 meeting with western allies, to identify the right places to drill wells, build schools and clinics, and train foreign militaries in the rule of law. After working with governments, international volunteer organizations, and others to solve complex social problems, I gained a newfound understanding of the possibilities and limitations of government. It was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding times in my life.
I returned to my family and my job at Hannaford in 2008, arriving just in time for Hannaford’s data breach. Assigned to rebuild the company’s data security infrastructure, our team turned the corner. Building on that success, I became the Director of Information Security for Hannaford and its US affiliates — numbering over 100,000 employees in the US.
I believe I had become the only nuclear engineer turned supermarket lawyer turned cyber-security professional ever!
Challenges beget more challenges, and I went on to take the role of chief operating officer for a small company in Portland: Tilson Technology Management. It was at Tilson that I came to appreciate both how hard it is to grow a business in Maine, as well as how rewarding it is to create jobs and watch motivated people flourish and achieve success.
Tilson was more than generous (as are most Maine employers) in giving me the opportunity to continue to serve in the Navy Reserve. While at Tilson, one of my most rewarding experiences occurred while I served as the Navy’s Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer to the State of Maine. In this role, I was as a conduit between the US military and the Navy with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and National Guard.
While Maine fortunately suffered no major disasters during my tenure, I was able to support the people of New York and New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy.
Driving across the Tappan Zee Bridge just as it closed when Sandy made landfall, I worked in the FEMA regional operations center in New Jersey, and was personally responsible for the establishment of Task Force Pump, which delivered small detachments from all branches of the military to remove the water from basements of critical structures in New York City, such as police stations, fire departments, and municipal buildings.
That experience was particularly instructive to me. Having observed the difficulties of trying to coordinate the many elements of the US government in East Africa, I saw firsthand the challenges of bringing those same resources to bear at home.
Anyone who believes that the federal government is well suited to solve complex problems such as health care, has not walked in my shoes and seen it in action. To be sure, great things, including the response to Hurricane Sandy can and do happen, but they often occur despite the federal government, not because of it.
My Tilson experience gave me the desire and skills, to launch my own business. Deer Brook Consulting, with its focus in cyber security, privacy, and technology, was born in 2012 and continues to operate successfully today.
Those who have shared the experience know that nothing is more rewarding or scarier than to start your own business. I’ve been fortunate to find exceptionally talented individuals here in Maine and leading them in growing our company has been a defining experience for me.
But leadership doesn’t just happen in the military and the business world. One of the keys to America’s greatness lies in its tradition of volunteerism, and I’ve worked hard in this area as well.
My past experiences volunteering in children’s lives, including tutoring, teaching Sunday School and serving on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Topsham all led me to Augusta, to serve on the Maine State Board of Education and as Vice Chair of the Maine Charter School Commission.
I’ve been particularly proud of the opportunity to help set the direction of education policy and ensure that school choice is available for students and parents. In bringing leadership to this important area, I’ve stayed true to my dad’s rule of doing hard jobs well.
At age 50 with nearly 30 years of military service, 20 years as a lawyer and businessman, and decades of volunteer service, I am well prepared for this next chapter of service: the US Congress.
As I survey the world and the sad state of America today, I am convinced that my experience as well as my leadership and knowledge of public policy can move America forward and secure a better future for our children.
It is this commitment and with the support of my family, that I made the decision to stand for a seat in Congress from Maine’s 1st Congressional District.