Neil Rolde Looks Back: What Politics Used to Be Like in Maine

By IRWIN GRATZ • OF MPBN
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PORTLAND, Maine – Neil Rolde says the stories in his new book are real; the names were changed to protect – the politicians. Rolde, a former state legislator from York, has written a new book, “Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician.” Rolde told MPBN’s Irwin Gratz that he drew the stories from his own time in Augusta.

Neil Rolde: “They’re people-based, sometimes on real people that I know. And real incidents that I was involved with, but disguised, in a way, in order to bring out that sense, you know – just ordinary folks doing a fairly extraordinary kind of work.”

Irwin Gratz: “Did you also take the license to exaggerate, or are these things as they really happened?” Continue reading

Political Tales book singing at the Harlow gallery a sucess

More than 25 people came out on a rainy Tuesday night to talk with and hear author Neil Rolde. And they weren’t disappointed. Rolde served in Augusta in the House or Representatives for 18 years, before then he worked as Governor Ken Curtis’s righthand man for eight years.

At the signing Rolde told more stories of what it was like passing laws in the 1970’s. And about his life, starting off as a writer trained at the Columbia School of Journalism to becoming a major figure in Maine’s political history, and becoming a historian. Rolde started out as a Republican and switched to being a Democrat after he moved to Maine. He has always been known to be able to work with anyone to get significant laws passed. He help Curtis pass the law that created income tax, it was an effort to lower property taxes.

Maine’s a unique state where the people can still talk with their local lawmakers. Many laws start with a local constituents idea, many citizens testify in committees. State government can and does work and Neil’s Political Tales show how it all happens.

There are signed copies of the book at the Harlow Gallery, 169 Water Street. Total cost $13.66. Or send a check or money order to the publisher: Polar Bear & Co. PO Box 311, Solon, Maine 04979

Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician – Neil Rolde’s book signing launch

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Author/Statesman Neil Rolde has written a new book, Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician.

“If you’ve ever served in a state legislature, lobbied one, or just read about their activities in the newspaper and wondered what goes on behind the scenes, you’ll love this book! From page one I couldn’t put it down and I loved every word of Neil’s stories crafted from ‘behind the scenes’ in the Maine legislature,” wrote Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in the book. “The characters may be fictional, but thanks to Neil’s insights and knowledge, coupled with his wonderful writing style, they all came to life.”

  • On April 21st at 6pm Neil host a book signing with beer, wine and cheese. He will speak about Political Tales and answer questions at 6.45 pm- 8pm
  • Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician is published by Maine’s Polar Bear & Company.

neil p“The personal element is stronger in the affairs of legislative bodies than of any other branch of government, but it is a hard thing to convey in straight reporting. The public understanding of the legislative process is poorer as a result. As an experienced and influential legislator, with a great gift for storytelling, Neil Rolde is the ideal person to remedy this defect, and this volume of Political Tales delivers on that promise,” wrote U.S. House of Representative Barney Frank in the book. “The stories are educational and entertaining in equal measure, and people who read them will be better prepared to understand what goes on when legislators meet and transact important public business.”

The tales can transport the reader into what the working lives of some lawmakers must be like as they are true to reality.

“The short stories are fictional, to be sure, but they incorporate almost a quarter of a century working directly in State government and even more years involved in the politics of Maine. They bear out my extensive experience of the political scene from the inside, not as expressed by opinionated media nor by the average person seeing things from outside,” said Rolde.

Mr. Rolde’s many years of public service include being an assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis of Maine for six years and 16 years as an elected Representative in the Maine Legislature. He represented his district of York, Maine and became Majority Leader of the Maine House during the 107th legislature from 1975-77. He became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990 in an election bid against Bill Cohen.

“The stories were engaging – reminding an insider of the ‘old days,’ and giving an outside observer a good sense of what truly goes on behind the scenes. It certainly brought me back to the days when I was sitting in one of those leather chairs, hearing the gavel come down and wondering what was about to happen next!” added Pingree.

Anyone reading the stories should gain respect for our lawmakers and will be surprised by Rolde’s candid style.

“They illustrate that our governments are made up of human beings – and in Maine at least, doing their level best to deal with the needs of the population at the lowest possible cost. It was said that we Maine legislators worked for a salary of three cents an hour,” said Rolde.

One has to ask which stories reflect Neil’s own experiences?

“All of them and none of them,” said Rolde. “They are fiction. Some contain actual events in which I participated but in different settings and circumstances. I have tried to cover the complexities of the two different positions I held in Augusta, first the administrative side working for the Governor in the Executive Department and then the legislative side as an elected State Representative. Also included are boards, commissions and non-profits, many on which I served, that help form the matrix of stability in the U.S. There are even references to Washington, D.C. and how it can and does interact with the States.”

Rolde’s books are extensively researched and most involve the history of Maine and its people. The plight of Native Americans has been a reoccurring theme in Rolde’s life since his childhood and he helped Maine’s tribes while he worked in the Curtis administration. These experiences led him to write one of Maine’s definitive historic books: Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians.

Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician also show us Neil’s wealth of knowledge, humor and wit.

“All of this is part of the American political scene. Bashing the leaders we elect goes back to President George Washington, even though he was elected unanimously. Mud slinging is as American as apple pie,” said Rolde. “I once had a fantasy of introducing a bill requiring every American to serve at least one term in a government body. That might add a sense of reality and humanity to our governance. Alas, it is ‘an idea whose time hasn’t and will never come.’”

Send a check or money order for $12.95 to Polar Bear & Company, PO BOX 311, Solon, Maine 04979. Or call 207.643.2795

Rolde has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician is Neil’s second fictional work.

A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

Breckenridge Long: An American: An American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews
Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine
Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
The Interrupted Forest A History of Maine’s Wildlands
Maine A Narrative History
Maine Downeast and Different an Illustrated History
An illustrated history of Maine
Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System How It Got That Way and What to Do About
Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil What It’s Like, What Its past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine
The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries
So You Think You Know Maine
Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away
O. Murray Carr: A Novel
Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England

“Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician”

Neil Rolde's Political Tales

Author/Statesman Neil Rolde has written a new book, Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician.

“If you’ve ever served in a state legislature, lobbied one, or just read about their activities in the newspaper and wondered what goes on behind the scenes, you’ll love this book! From page one I couldn’t put it down and I loved every word of Neil’s stories crafted from ‘behind the scenes’ in the Maine legislature,” wrote Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in the book. “The characters may be fictional, but thanks to Neil’s insights and knowledge, coupled with his wonderful writing style, they all came to life.”

“Neil Rolde is one of Maine’s preeminent historians, and we always look forward to his new projects. Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician is a great chance for us to host Neil holding forth on politics as only he can,” said Josh Christie, manager of Sherman’s in Portland, ME, where Neil will launch his book. Continue reading

Maine Humanities Council to honor tribal historian

This month, Passamaquoddy Tribal Historian Donald Soctomah will receive the 2015 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize from the Maine Humanities Council.

William ‘Bro’ Adams, Chairman of the National Endowment for Humanities and former president of Colby College, will be on hand to honor Soctomah at the prize luncheon in Bangor on March 30th. The luncheon will also feature recorded comments from Senator Angus King and a letter from Senator Susan Collins in appreciation of Soctomah’s contributions to the state of Maine. Those contributions are vast.

Soctomah is the sixth person to receive the Constance H. Carlson Prize since its creation in 1998. Previous honorees are Joseph Conforti, Neil Rolde, Northeast Historic Film, Billie Gammon, and Tabitha King.
Continue reading

Real stories about The War Refugee Board will be Neil’s next book

71944Having finished and seen published my biography of Breckinridge Long, the controversial State Department Assistant Secretary blamed for his strenuous efforts to keep refugees – especially Jewish refugees – from coming to the United States and escaping the Holocaust during World War II, it is fitting to talk about a sequel to this book that I plan. Long was even accused of keeping the news of the gas chambers and the Holocaust from reaching the United States.

In December 1943, the pressure to relieve Long of his power of granting or not granting visas was beginning to bear fruit. An effort had been mounted in Congress to create a rescue agency that would devote itself to saving the remnants of the Jewish people in Europe from the Nazi killing operations. All Jews under Nazi control throughout the continent had been condemned to death and mostly wiped out for the mere fact of their being Jewish, but populations of them still existed in Axis satellite countries like Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria. Continue reading

Neil Rolde’s History in Politics # 35: Is Jim Crow Back?

Volunteers taking over 68,000 signatures to be validated to the Sec. of State for the People's Veto iin 2011. photo by Ramona du Houx -

Volunteers taking over 68,000 signatures to be validated to the Sec. of State for the People’s Veto iin 2011. photo by Ramona du Houx –

This appeared in Maine Insights magazine.
By Neil Rolde

There is a story, most likely apocryphal but eminently believable, that in the days of Jim Crow rule in the South, a black man named Rastus appeared at a local poling place and said he wanted to register to vote.

The white good ol’ boys in charge decided to have some fun with Rastus. “Why, Rastus,” he was told, “Do’t’s you know that you can’t vote until you are able to prove to us you know how to read.”

“I can read,” replied Rastus.

“In that case, can you read this?” said one of his tormentors and help up a document written entirely in Chinese.

“Sho,’ I can read that,” the applicant declared.

“You can, Rastus? Tell us what is says.”

“It’s perfectly clear. No black man is going to vote in Mississippi in this election.”

This was, if true, one of the more benign ways of suppressing a black vote in the South during those days. In numerous cases, a mere request of this sort from an “uppity” black person could lead to Night Riders in sheets and a tumultuous lynching party. Continue reading