Allison Salsbury of Town Hill is a regular pen pal of Gov. Paul LePage. He mentioned her last week in his State of the State address. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

LePage praises his MDI pen pal



BAR HARBOR — Bar Harbor native Allison Salsbury got a shout-out from Gov. Paul LePage at the beginning of his State of the State address last week. “Allison and I became pen pals way back in 2011, when I first became governor,” he said. “She really understands the plight of the Maine elderly. She’s been a lady that is just absolutely fantastic.”

Salsbury, who will be 89 this summer, said she has enjoyed the exchange of letters and thinks the governor “is doing a wonderful job.” She lost her husband, contractor and former state legislator Roland Salsbury, last year.

She met the governor at an event at the VFW hall in Franklin several years ago. “I was blond then, now I’m white headed,” she laughed.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLISON SALSBURY

“I liked his honesty and the way he presented himself to people. He’s like a country boy that you grew up with. He didn’t put on any airs.”

She wrote soon after to tell him she thought he was doing a good job.

“It was a wonderful start for a new governor,” she said, “trying to get people capable of taking care of themselves. People wouldn’t be on welfare if they were working – he’d like to see them educated.”

Salsbury said the governor knows what it’s like not to have what you need – he grew up with an abusive parent, ran away from home and was homeless for several years.

“I tell him that I grew up in the Depression. I knew what it was like to have limited food” too, she said.

“I remember my mother, at the end of the week, she made what they call milk toast. It was all the bread crusts put in the oven, with a milk sauce over them. That was our dinner. There were seven of us including Mom and Dad.”

Salsbury’s father, Lyle Smith, was the first game warden on Mount Desert Island, she said.

Sometimes the pen pals’ communications include small gifts. This week, Salsbury has two small paintings she created ready to send to the LePages. One is a postage stamp-sized painting of the lighthouse in Bass Harbor. The other is a painting of a chickadee on a piece of birch bark.

In the letters LePage writes to her, Salsbury said he talks about wanting to “be there” for every Maine citizen.

“He wants everybody to have a job,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m not one to boast of who I am, I just wanna be there for everybody.’

“He’s got a little bit of a temper, but he makes me laugh,” she said.

During his annual State of the State address to lawmakers in Augusta, LePage said, “we write at least – well, she writes me – at least once a week. I’m three letters behind, Allison, I apologize. I will get those written here shortly…I wish everybody could have the opportunity to meet an elder like Allison Salsbury.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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