Tribute to Mr. Thomas Welchby Senator Angus S. King, Jr.
Posted on 2014-12-11
KING. Madam President, I wish to honor the career of a
dear friend and former colleague, Mr. Thomas Welch, who is set to
retire this year as Chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Tom's tremendous 35-year career bridged both the public and private
sectors and has always been defined by a steadfast dedication to
service and, of course, an unwavering love for the State of Maine.
As Governor, I had the privilege of calling on Tom to lead the Maine Public Utilities Commission, also known as the MPUC, and that is the same position that he was again nominated for and currently holds under Governor Paul LePage.
Serving as Chairman of the MPUC is, at times, a thankless job, but it is also one of monumental importance. Tom's job is central to keeping the lights on, the water flowing, the heat coming, and the people of Maine connected through reliable phone and Internet services. In my administration--just as he does today--Tom performed those tasks and so much more with outstanding acumen, keen judgment, and, I might add, with one eye always towards the future. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that Tom, perhaps more than anyone else across the State, played a pivotal role in ushering Maine's public utilities into the 21st century.
A generation of Maine's young minds can thank Tom for laying the groundwork that hastened their journey into the digital age. Tom recognized early on that the Internet was quickly evolving into a more dynamic and powerful tool that, when placed in the hands of our students and our communities, could become a catalyst for digital learning, a driver of economic growth, and an architect of intra- personal connections that were no longer limited by geographic constraints. With that immense potential in mind, he worked tirelessly to implement the Federal E-Rate program, which delivered Internet access to schools and libraries across the State--and with that newfound Internet access, he delivered new and unprecedented opportunities to people all across Maine, an achievement so fundamental and so critical to our daily lives that it simply cannot be understated.
As high energy prices across Maine continued to weigh heavily on the pockets and minds of people across the State, Tom endeavored mightily to deregulate Maine's electric industry to lower energy prices, and most recently, he lead the charge to expand natural gas capacity throughout the region.
In conclusion, I should point out that I often to refer to Tom as ``SMIM''--the Smartest Maine in Maine. He possesses a vast knowledge of law and public policy that is matched by very few and that has helped inform and shape Maine's telecommunications and energy framework for nearly a decade. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find an individual with a deeper understanding of our State's public utilities infrastructure. But perhaps more important is his genuine ability to teach and share that knowledge with others. These characteristics not only make Tom a remarkable public servant, but a valued role model as well.
I, of course, am saddened to see Tom enter retirement because his departure will be a loss for Maine--but, I, along with the people of Maine, am forever grateful for his many years of service on behalf of our state.
Tom, congratulations and thank you. I hope your retirement is as restful and relaxing as it is well-deserved.