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Hoosier mayor Maxine Lewis proves persistence and experience prevail.

An old saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

One who heeded this advice is Maxine Lewis, mayor of Portland, Indiana since last summer.

Lewis became mayor of the community of 6,483 on her second attempt, and although she has only been in office a short time, is quite familiar with the responsibilities of the post.

That is because she served as secretary to Portland's two previous mayors.

A Democrat, Lewis was initially hired by Republican Mayor James Luginbill to be his secretary.

Lewis had been Luginbill's secretary at Jay Garment Company in the early 1950's before leaving the workforce to raise her four children.

In 1985, when Luginbill was mayor and in search of a new secretary, he ran into Lewis on the street and asked whether she would be interested in working for him again.

"For those unfamiliar with the intensity of Hoosier politics, I should point out that Hoosiers of opposite political affiliation rarely speak, much less hire one another," said Michael J. Quinn, executive director of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT).

Following Luginbill's voluntary retirement from office two years ago, Lewis entered the Democratic mayoral primary, only to lose to Vaughn Bailey by 20 votes.

Once elected mayor, Bailey then asked his former opponent to stay on as his secretary.

Lewis said Bailey told her he harbored no ill feelings and felt that her experience in the office could be an asset to him.

When Bailey died of cancer in May, friends encouraged Lewis, who was still working in the office, to submit her name to the four Democratic city precinctmen who were charged with choosing the new mayor.

She did. So did the county Democratic chairman, Fred Bailey.

On the night of the selection, Fred Bailey joined the precinctment--all of whom he had appointed--to discuss the balloting and to vote in the event of a tie.

After several minutes, Fred Bailey emerged from the room and congratulated Lewis on her appointment as Portland's new mayor.

Former Mayor Luginbill remarked that he was glad Lewis was chosen, noting that she did a "fabulous" job as his secretary. He said the mayor's secretary often takes calls from citizens in his absence and that Lewis handled them as he would have.

Quinn said this was the first time he or anyone on the IACT staff had heard of a mayor's secretary becoming mayor. He attributed part of Luginbill's and Vaughn Bailey's success in the office to the fact that they had an able assistant.

Lewis said she plans no major changes from the Bailey administration during the first year of her own term and intends to retain department heads for at least that period.

Eventually Lewis hopes to help lure firms to Portland's industrial park and deal with children congregating in town.

She's also contemplating a grant for new sidewalks, dealing with leaks in the new water plant and replacing some sanitary sewers.

At present, Lewis is uncertain whether she will seek reelection when her term is up in 1995.

"Riverboat gambling, recently authorized in Indiana, may or may not make it in Hoosierland, but I will put a $10 bet to win on Maxine Lewis!" remarked Quinn.
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Author:Turner, Laura
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 6, 1993
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