I talked to Bangor city councilor Joe Baldacci about city council dress codes, whether he preferred being mayor, and what it was like being 20 years younger than everyone else when first elected.
Q: You were elected to the Bangor city council in 1996. How were council meetings different in the 1990s than they are today? And feel free to quote Backstreet Boys lyrics in your answer.
A: [Laughs] They were not televised in the 1990s. They were more informal, I think you would say. Because they’re televised and recorded now, there’s always an assurance we’re making to make sure it’s fully transparent. That all things are discussed in public. Twenty years ago, I don’t think that same care was taken.
Q: What do you wear to city council meetings, and what do you think the dress code should be?
A: I think that on occasion, having buttoned-up short-sleeved shirts are fine. This is a part-time city council, we all have jobs outside of city council. Half the time I’m wearing a suit and tie, and half the time I’m maybe wearing a suit without tie or just a button-down shirt. It’s not overly formal.
Q: I always thought that in Maine, a short-sleeved buttoned-down shirt was the most formal you could be. Apparently, I was wrong. Okay, so you were mayor from 1998-1999. Which did you like better: being the mayor or a regular councilor?
A: Well, as a regular councilor you can be a little more, honestly, outspoken on issues. As the mayor, your focus really is trying to ensure consensus and stability.
Q: So it sounds like you’re just fine with being regular Joe Councilman? Literally, Joe Councilman.
A: The mayor doesn’t have any more votes than I do. It’s a ceremonial position more or less. It’s an honor. It’s all good. It’s just that as an individual councilor, you can push issues.
Q: Your brother was also a Bangor city councilor who went on to be a congressman and governor of Maine. Is there any rivalry between the two of you where he says, “YOU’RE just a councilman. I was governor!” And you go “Yeah, you WERE. At least I’m still on the city council!”
A: [Laughs] No, John’s been very supportive.
Q: What advice did he give you when you were elected?
A: He told me to listen to the people that had been there many, many years. I was 31 and kind of a newbie. I think after me, everyone was in their 50s, 60s, or 70s.
Q: Wait, that’s a 20-year age gap. Did you feel any burden to prove you were mature enough to be on the council with these much older people?
A: Yes. Yeah, definitely. Especially the first year.
Q: If you caught some lobster and had a boil party at your house, who would you invite over to share it with?
A: Probably Councilor Perry…Councilor Graham…Councilor Faircloth…and–
Q: You can’t name all of them. You have to pick a favorite.
A: I like all of them equally!
Q: If I was talking to you in your first year, you would’ve picked a favorite. But you’re more diplomatic now.
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