Meet Representative Michelle Dunphy, House Chair of the Maine Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee
Representative Dunphy is in her second term in the Maine House of Representatives and is the House Chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. Maine is one of the few states in the northeast that has joint House and Senate committees. Michelle lives in Old Town and represents both Old Town and Penobscot Indian Island. She is married to Matt Dunlap, the Maine Secretary of State and a former Representative. They have a daughter, Emily.
Michelle currently works as a Customer Service Representative for a telecommunications company, and also part time as a waitress at a pizza restaurant. She is a former teacher, and has degrees in both English and Education from the University of Maine. She does say she misses teaching.
Representative Dunphy’s legislative focus is on Agriculture, Natural Resources, Economic Development and Elder Services. She is also a life member of the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine. We asked if this meant she was a hunter. She said was not, but a lot of her constituents are hunters and she supports them. When asked what attracted her to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, she immediately replied, ‘I have a real passion for agriculture. I believe it is the face of Maine, and we must maintain what we have, without losing more of our precious farms.
Michelle told us that she thinks sustainability is the biggest challenge for Maine Agriculture. She said, “I wonder where the next generation of farmers will come from?” She noted that Maine farms need to be profitable to stay in business. “There is something so wonderful and complex about the ability to feed people, as well as something so economically vital for our state.”
This past November, Maine passed a ballot initiative that created legislation making recreational marijuana legal in the state. Even though the effective date of the law has been delayed by the legislature because of flaws in the drafting, Rep. Dunphy knows that the marijuana law will take a lot of the legislature’s time this year. The other big issues for the Maine Legislature are Medicaid expansion, economic stability and job growth, and attracting young people to the state and keeping them there.
When asked what it was like being a co-chair of a joint committee with the Senate, particularly when the two chambers are of different parties, Michelle replied, “It forces the members – and especially the co-chairs – to work together, and it forces detailed review of all solutions to proposed legislation.” She likes working in a joint committee because there is a lot of depth to the solutions. When asked whether she likes Maine’s term limits, she was very quick to say “No. The biggest loss with term limits is the that of institutional knowledge.”
Rep. Dunphy’s favorite thing about being in the Legislature is that she learns something new every single day. She loves the whole process of creating legislation, and enjoys the constituent service that she provides. Her passion for her work and the rewards of constituent service keep her going every day in Augusta.
Bob Haefner and Tara Sad
Agricultural and Rural Affairs Policy Advisors