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Chellie Pingree

Chellie Pingree

Chellie Pingree has the courage to take on tough issues she believes in - and the political skills to create life-transfornling public policy.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chellie moved to the island community of North Haven, Maine when she was 17. She settled there permanently in 1977 after graduating from the College of the Atlantic.

In 1981, after operating a small farm, Chellie started North Island Yarn, a cottage industry of hand knitters with a retail store on the island. Her business expanded to become North Island Designs, which marketed knitting kits and pattern books nationwide. Chellie has served as a member of the North Haven Planning Board and chair of the School Board. And North Haven is where she has raised her three children.

First elected to the Maine Senate in 1992, Chellie believes that everything she knows about politics she learned living on North Haven. She was able to put the skills she gained on the island to work in the legislature - finding creative, practical solutions to problems and building consensus. These abilities and her substantial knowledge of public policy issues were quickly recognized. At the age of 37, she was elected Maine's Senate Majority Leader in December 1996, a position she held through 2000.

During her tenure as a state senator, Chellie sponsored landmark legislation championing the interests of women and low-income families. She sponsored legislation that: created the Parents as Scholars program; led to the expansion of health care to 10,000 low wage parents; and expanded the low cost drug program for low income Maine people. Chellie also led several economic development initiatives including legislation to enhance small business opportunities in Maine and, since 1994, she has served as co-chair of the Maine Economic Growth Council. She was instrumental in the battle to increase public access to land, which culminated in a successful referendum in the fall of 1999. Chellie is perhaps best known, both in Maine and nationally, for her sponsorship of the country's first prescription drug pricing bill.

Chellie has actively encouraged women to run for public office and assisted in their election. As chair of the Maine Women's Vote Project, she has worked tirelessly to boost the voter turnout. Chellie is impassioned about democracy - and her enthusiasm has galvanized women and men from all over the state to become involved in the political process.

The prestigious Eisenhower International Exchange Program named Chellie to a fellowship in 1997, and through this program she traveled to Hungary for six weeks to participate in that county's transition to a more peaceful and accountable democracy. Additionally, she served on a special White House delegation to oversee the Bosnia and Herzegovina first democratic election of 1998 and, the following year, she was a member of the U.S. delegation to Belfast, Ireland, working with women political leaders there.

Since leaving the Maine Senate, Chellie's pace hasn't slowed. She has accepted requests from advocates, health care providers and policy makers across the country to speak about the Maine prescription drug pricing law. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Policy Alternatives in Washington.

2001 Photograph

Inducted March 2001