Friday, February 24, 2017

A day in the life of a Senator by Stephen Signor

As a new column for your reading pleasure, we are beginning “A Day in the Life of ....” If you want to learn about what happens in someone’s career, non-profit organization, etc. or you would enjoy sharing what a day is like in your career, non-profit, etc., please feel free to contact the editor at: We welcome any suggestions and will do our best to write about it.

Election time, for now, has come and gone. The media coverage has all but disappeared, at least locally anyway. As voters continue to go on about their daily lives, there’s little doubt that no passing thought has ever been given to some lives of those we chose to represent us. In other words, except for what is broadcast or read through the media, especially during these elections, a politician’s daily life is relatively unknown - until now.  

Earlier this week I was afforded the honor, privilege and rare opportunity to be placed in the shoes of Democratic District 26 Senator Bill Diamond. “I have been asked in the past, if I minded being shadowed for the day? For the most part I say no because I am in so many directions with all the committees I am on. It’s very demanding,” explained Diamond.

Bill Diamond working diligently
Before disclosing his routine, there was one point in particular he wanted to bring home. “People have a general impression of a politician as it were. I think there are a lot of politicians who are not that. They’re in it for the right reasons. Legislators and town councilors and even the school board don’t get enough credit. These people are our neighbors; they are not the eager, egotistical self-interested (types) running ramped in Washington where the only goal is to get re-elected.” 

That said, his day depends on the time of the year. “This time of year in politics the day starts early and goes late. When I get up there (Augusta) we have a senate democrat’s caucus. That sets the tone for the session. After that there are committee meetings, work sessions and public hearings. In between, I am doing research because I have to present my own bills to all the committees; and then all of this goes until around 4 p.m. Starting in March I’ll be up there until later in the evening. Depending on which committee you are on, it may be even later. It will get more and more intense until the end of the session in June,” shared Diamond.

At the end of the day, if it is not too late, it’s a quick stop to Allmed Staffing, a business he has co-owned for five years. “The thing about Maine legislature is that, it is a citizen legislature that pays $12,000 the first year and $9,000 the second. To this end, unless you are rich or retired, most everyone in politics is doing something else.”

Added to this end-of-the-day routine, is the roughly 65 emails received daily. “When I get home I will respond to the 65 or so emails I receive on a daily basis. About half of those will require a response so I want to make sure I get those done that day, otherwise I will have 130 the next day. Besides, they want to hear from me for the most part.” 

To emphasize the point, Diamond added, “The biggest part of my job, whether it is here (Allmed) or Augusta is dealing with constituent concerns and getting back to them, based on what’s happening in Augusta legislatively. There is an amazing amount of folks that need help with something and to them it’s the first and foremost thing of the day. I understand that, so I try to get at these things very quickly unless it is a unique situation. But I treat all situations equally.”

Prioritizing is a learning curve. “Some of those are easy to dispose of or don’t require a lot of time to spend on. Others though, and there are many, may seem trivial at first look. I have had to train myself because I would look at that and say, ‘that’s an easy answer, that’s not a big deal’; but then I would look again and yes it is a big deal - because if they are getting to me with a question and are frustrated, at whatever it may be, then I have to give it attention”

But before any of that happens his day starts at the crack of dawn. “I am up every day at 5:30 a.m. Then I try to work out for 45 minutes - either running or riding the stationary bike. I get that out of the way otherwise I’d never get it done.  I’ve been doing that for 40 years. Then it is up to Augusta and I try not to do things that distract my driving. Even politicians have to comply with distracted driving laws,” he said laughingly. But the real driving force is the needs of the people, the same people that put him in office.

As for finding time to sleep, “I need six hours of sleep, seven is better. I can perform well on six but I will notice it after a few days if there is not a seven in there somewhere. If I am in the right place, I can take a 10 to 15 minute nap and I’ll feel like I just had five hours of sleep.” Obviously, that cannot be done while he’s in session.

“You can’t be seen nodding off,” said Diamond laughingly. “Besides, I don’t get sleepy up there because I’m really busy. So, it is a long day,” He also admits to rarely having a sleepless night.
That leaves only one last question: Is there such a thing as free time in a politician’s life? “I don’t have a lot of it but that is probably by design,” admits Diamond. He does, however, love the old west - the southwest in particular. “Having grown up with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and the real life characters of the Earps and places like Tombstone, I got interested in all that stuff and traveled out west a few times. I would like to take a week this summer to re-visit Tombstone. It has a rich history. 
I’m not a big traveler unless it is a place I’d really like to go. Other than that I keep my day full. I also enjoying working around the house in what spare time I have.”

How long his political life will continue is anybody’s guess. “I don’t see myself retiring, I really don’t. I’d have to have a valid reason. I just can’t walk away from what I do. I’ve been blessed. It has been a wonderful experience. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder how did this happen to me - a poor kid from West Gardener who didn’t have any running water? But no, I’m going to ride that horse as long as I can.”

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