This month marks the end of a remarkable political partnership between U.S. Sen. Angus King and Kay Rand, the woman who managed his campaigns and his offices since he first ran for governor of Maine in 1993.
A long-shot independent candidate for governor, King won a five-way race in 1994 with just over 35 percent of the vote. King and Rand never looked back. In 1998, in a five-way re-election race, King won with 58 percent of the vote. Next came his 2012 U.S. Senate race (three candidates, King 53 percent) and this year’s re-election (three candidates, King 54 percent).
Kay Rand has been an essential ingredient in it all. Intelligent, perceptive, honest and loyal, she has a work ethic like no other. Born in Ashland and steeped in the character of “the County,” those who know her best say it all started with potatoes. Getting the crop out was a community activity. She worked the annual harvest, as did most County kids, earning money for winter clothes alongside her siblings, cousins and friends.
Working through the cold and the early morning hours, Rand learned about life in a small town where you know all your neighbors and learn the value of family and community. She learned that problem-solving involves others, that people have to get together to make things work. Above all, she learned that you are going to need everyone in that community at one time or another. As a County friend put it, “Don’t spit in the well.”
Sen. King himself, in a tribute to Rand on the floor of the Senate, called her “like no one I have ever met.” She has an impeccable reputation for trustworthiness and political smarts, is 100 percent true to her word and unfailingly courteous to the most mean-spirited opponent. She never took advantage of her post as gatekeeper to a governor or a senator to make life difficult for anyone. Ever.
As a result, the woman simply has no enemies. Her door was open to everyone. Angus King again: “She had no hard edges, not a shred of meanness.” He also said of Rand: “Anyone could talk a good game, but Kay could execute.” She was “incredibly competent” with “absolute integrity,” and a “superb manager.” His reaction to her departure? “Well…” He hesitated. “Sadness.”
Rand’s early days in Augusta were at the Maine Municipal Association. One friend said: “If you know Maine towns, you know Maine.” And Kay knew Maine. She was the lobbyist for state and federal relations, learning the ropes at the State House and building relationships that would last throughout her professional life. Said an old MMA friend: “She took a handful of that soil from Aroostook County and kept it in her pocket for the rest of her career. She never forgot where she came from.”
Rand is described as a mentor who “reaches down and pulls people up,” who “always found the best in people.” She was entirely reliable; whatever she told you, you could take to the bank.
Sen. King takes great glee in describing a personality screening scale he and his staff used to strengthen their working relationships. Rand scored zero on respect for authority. King was not about to get hero worship from Rand, but what he got was much more valuable. “She has a vision of public service, what we can be and what we can do. And she’d always tell you when you were wrong.”
Mary Herman, the senator’s wife, first met Rand when they were both lobbyists. She describes Rand as someone who put people first, always. At her desk in a mountain of paperwork, “Kay would drop everything and go” if there was a visitor to the office. “Her temperament was perfect for the job. She always made time for you and was happy to see you. It was never about her.”
Seek her out in her office or run into her in the hall, and you would be greeted with a crinkly-eyed smile and the shouting out of your whole name, first and last. But one would be unwise to mistake her famous warmth as a sign she could be easily manipulated. If she started running her fingers or the eraser end of a pencil through her dark hair, it was a good time to review your options.
She has a deep understanding of and affection for the people of Maine. She once expressed her goal as the senator’s chief of staff as “keeping the ‘Maine’ in Angus King’s Washington office.” No one could have done that better. Now Kay Rand is bringing what King called “an everlasting legacy of leadership, integrity and character” home to Hancock County, anticipating a life not exactly of retirement but one that is at least less hectic and more predictable. Well done, Kay.