MECEP Executive Director and Founder Christopher “Kit” St. John Announces His Retirement at the End of 2011

Maine and MECEP will lose a “voice in the corridors of power, a tireless presence in good times and bad”
Augusta, Maine (Thursday, April 14, 2011). The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) announced today that Executive Director and Founder, Christopher “Kit” St.John, will leave his position at the end of 2011.  Widely noted as one of Maine’s most respected voices on tax and budget issues, St.John was in a group of advocates who founded the organization in 1994 to ensure that the interests of low- and moderate-income families would be represented in budget debates.  He was hired as the first staff person in May of that year.

“For nearly two decades Kit St. John has been MECEP’s voice in the corridors of power, a tireless presence in good times and bad,” said Steve Ward, former Maine Public Advocate and chair of the MECEP Board of Directors. “Now, MECEP will go forward under the leadership of its Board and — in time — a new Executive Director. MECEP’s message for policymakers will not change: review with care all policy options and pursue those that are kindest to people in poverty, Maine’s environment and future generations. But soon it will not be Kit’s distinctive voice delivering that message. All of us who love Maine have learned from him — and we will miss him.”

The MECEP Board has announced a national search for a new executive director. 

St.John, a native of New Haven Connecticut, moved to Maine in 1975 to take his first job with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, after completing Yale Law School. He worked at the organization for a total of seventeen years and served as a registered lobbyist at the Maine state legislature, representing low income individuals and groups on issues of landlord tenant law, tax issues, utility rates, welfare and health care.

“For nearly two decades, Kit has brought vibrant and effective leadership to an institution focused on providing critical research, analysis, and education to help Mainers prosper in this struggling economy,” said U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe.

“Kit’s work on behalf of Maine has helped to elevate the conversation about public policy,” said former Maine Governor John E. Baldacci. “His rock-solid research and advocacy have led to better government, and his commitment to working families is a tribute to him and to the organization he founded. Kit’s voice and leadership will be missed, but the work he has begun will continue.”

“I congratulate Kit for his dedicated 34 years of service to the citizens of Maine,” said former Maine Governor Angus King.  “Although we didn’t always agree on issues, Kit based his arguments on data and sound analysis.  I have always respected him and enjoyed our spirited discussions.”

To view additional quotes from other Maine leaders and from St. John’s colleagues in Maine’s public interest community, click here.

Under St. John’s leadership, MECEP grew from a staff of one with an annual budget of $50,000 from two national foundations, to a staff of six with a $675,000 budget from a donor base of over two hundred organizations and 500 individuals.

“During my tenure, MECEP has relied on high quality research and analysis and coalition building to influence policy outcomes in ways seen and unseen,” St. John said.  “I am very proud of the contributions MECEP has made to expanding health care coverage, to defeating arbitrary limits of state and local spending in three ballot intiatives, to keeping Maine’s tax system among the least regressive of all states, and to advancing important proposals for sustainable development and livable wage jobs, especially in the less prosperous parts of Maine.   Thankfully, the vision and support for our work extend well beyond me.  It is timely that I hand the reins to younger imaginations who are similarly dedicated to promoting shared prosperity for all Maine people.”

St.John has served on numerous state boards and commissions.  Governor John McKernan named him a consumer representative on the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Regulation of Health Care Expenditures.  Attorney General Andrew Ketterer appointed St. John to the founding Board of the Maine Health Care Access Foundation; and Governor John Baldacci named him to the Commission to Study Maine Hopsitals.

St.John was awarded the Founder’s Award by Coastal Enterprises in 2001, the Star of Community Action Award by the Maine Community Action Association in 2001;  the Joe Kreisler Community Impact Award by Preble Street, and the Social Landscape Artist Award by Maine Initiatives in 2006.