Like every Mainer, Chellie Pingree has played many roles: mother, farmer, community leader, and small businesswoman. She knows how difficult it can be to meet a payroll and run a business, and she’s never forgotten how important it is to get a community working together to help everyone get ahead.
The lessons she learned in small town Maine have always been her guide: be accountable to your neighbors, and always use your common sense.
Right after college, Chellie and her husband, Charlie, spent several years running a small, farm and selling produce, eggs and meat locally. In 1981, she started North Island Yarn, a cottage industry of local knitters, with a retail store on the island. The business expanded quickly and employed as many as ten local workers, selling knitting kits and pattern books nationwide through retail stores and mail order catalogues. Today, Chellie and her family operate Nebo Lodge, a small inn and restaurant on North Haven.
Chellie’s first term was marked by the hard work and common sense approach she’s believed in all her life. She’s known throughout the District for focusing on her constituents and fighting for the small businesses that she knows firsthand are the backbone of our local economy.
Chellie took on Anthem/Blue Cross for using fine print to deny veterans' health care claims, recovering $500,000 for Togus VA hospital in Augusta. Chellie also went to bat for local business owners, pushing her own party to require banks to increase lending to small businesses and increase access to capital in order to protect and grow jobs.
Chellie never anticipated a life in politics. Living on the offshore island of North Haven, Maine, she raised her kids, ran a small business, and served on the school board. But in 1991, when she was approached about running for State Senate, she jumped at the chance to give other working moms a voice in state government.
In the Maine Senate, Chellie sponsored one of the nation's first prescription drug pricing bills, MaineRX, which has become a model for states around the country working to lower prescription drug prices. She also sponsored the successful "Parents as Scholars" program, a national model for welfare reform, and led successful efforts to protect Maine's environment, for corporate accountability, to protect workers, and in support of Maine's small businesses. As a state Senator, Chellie was also a founding member of the Maine Economic Growth Council.
From 2003 to 2007, Chellie served as the National President and CEO of Common Cause, a non-partisan citizen activist group with nearly 300,000 members. Common Cause's agenda included limiting media concentration and consolidation, promoting Net Neutrality, and election reform, while continuing to pursue its traditional goals of campaign finance reform and oversight of government ethics and accountability.
During her first term in Congress, Chellie was appointed to the House Rules Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. In 2009 and 2010, she was able to play a key role on numerous pieces of landmark legislation, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Financial Services Reform Bill, and the Affordable Care Act, among many others. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Chellie was able to fight for Maine-made ships to rebuild our depleted Navy. She also led the questioning of Generals Petraeus and McChrystal with respect to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chellie Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1955, the youngest of four children. She moved to Maine as a teenager, attended the University of Southern Maine, and graduated from the College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor. After college, she moved to North Haven, an island town of 350 people twelve miles off the coast of Rockland, to raise her family and make a living. Chellie has called North Haven home for more than 30 years.
Chellie has three grown children. Her eldest, Hannah, is the former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and is married to filmmaker Jason Mann. Hannah and Jason are the proud parents of the newest addition to the family, granddaughter Elsie Ford Mann. Chellie's daughter Cecily is also a filmmaker and runs a small production company with Jason called Pull-Start pictures that primarily works on Maine based work. And her son, Asa, is a small business owner and proud father of Chellie's grandson, Smith.
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