KENNEBUNK – Every child goes through stages of what they want to be when they grow up. Whether it is a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher or a movie star, the career always seems to change over time. However, Linda Lyon of Kennebunk, who has been a staff member for U.S Sen. Olympia Snowe since 1998, always knew she wanted to be in politics.
Sen. Snowe will be vacating her seat in the Senate at the end of her term in November of this year. Her staff’s last day of work in her office will be Jan. 2, 2013.
“It is all up in the air right now,” Lyon said. “It is unknown what will happen until she leaves office. We have gotten so many wonderful calls. We are all going to miss her. She has been a major gift to this state.”
If anything, Lyon sees this as an opportunity to explore other paths in her life. Aside from working with Snowe, Lyon is an artist, a writer, a gardener and a fashionista. All things she plans to continue doing when her schedule opens up, she said.
Lyon has plans to use her open schedule to publish a book of her photos that she took after 9/11. Two weeks after the attack, Lyon was driving in Kennebunk where she saw unlit candles along the street and, as she went on, she saw an influx of flags on people’s cars and lawns and was “overwhelmed” by it all, she said. When she reached the bridge connecting Kennebunk and Kennebunkport she saw a couple overlooking the water. When they turned around to face her, Lyon saw they were weeping.
“This was a big project. I couldn’t do it for a long while,” she said. “It was still so painful. I am hoping now to share this moment with the community. Now I will have the time to do it. Here was a rallying point for a nation and a community to come together. This is my opportunity to share it.”
Lyon was at work in the senator’s office when news broke about the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. A colleague’s daughter called and told them to turn on the TV, which they did just as the plane hit the second tower, she said.
“It was so surreal. The whole day was chaotic,” she said. “All of the offices in D.C. had to seek out other places to work. The unreality of it all was overwhelming. To see the people fleeing from the building, it was totally surreal. It had a profound effect on both the federal and the local.”
Since the age of 14, growing up in Illinois, Lyon knew she wanted to major in political science when she attended college and had a dream of being a career diplomat. However, Lyon’s high school advisor told her “girls don’t major in political science. They study either English or teaching,” he said.
“If I saw him now I would deck him,” she said. “I listened to him and majored in English and ended up teaching, so I did both. But part of my dream died.”
After graduating from high school, Lyon got her Bachelor’s degree in English at DePauw University, a small liberal arts college in Indiana.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “The university was incredible.”
Lyon ended up teaching as an English and math professor at Delta College in Michigan and served as an assistant teacher at the university’s Learning Center until 1993.
In 1982, Lyon ventured to the East Coast to visit a college friend who convinced her to take a drive to Maine and she ended up in Kennebunkport right during the vacation season.
“I fell in love with the ocean,” she said.
Lyon spent 11 summers vacationing in Maine and in 1993 she made a lifechanging decision. She quit her job at Delta College and moved to Kennebunk, where she has lived ever since. She taught in higher education until 1998, when she sent her resume to Snowe’s office and was hired as part of the senator’s staff.
“I loved teaching,” she said. “But this was my dream. The community of Kennebunk has been very important to me. It isn’t easy to move from Michigan to Maine. I have made many great friends and mentors here.”
Finally, Lyon was able to begin where she was at age 14. Maybe not working as a diplomat in a foreign country. But working for Snowe she was able to be a local diplomat. As a staff member, Lyon managed Snowe’s casework, spoke with constituents who had issues with the federal government, took legislature comments to Snowe and made appearances in Snowe’s stead.
“I was so glad to help people in her name,” she said. “I was so glad to be able to work for someone I believed in. She works so hard. She wanted to get things done in this country. It has been an honor working for her. I have enjoyed the hard work that results in the outcome for Sen. Snowe’s constituents.”
Lyon will take the opportunity to spend time in her garden and volunteer in the Kennebunk community. She also hopes to visit Michigan to see her son and his family, which includes two grandchildren which “have her by the heart strings.”
“They are a major focus for me,” she said.
Whatever she does in the future, Lyon will never regret following her dreams to Maine and Snowe’s office.
“It has been a wonderful experience to be out here in Maine. It’s not just the wonder and beauty, but to me a dream come true working with Sen. Snowe,” she said. “It was a dream I never abandoned. I could have stayed and been comfortable in Michigan. This has been a wonderful experience.”
“Never give up on your dreams.”
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