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State Sen. Brewer left his mark.

Byline: George Barnes

Steve Brewer was just a politician. I get that, but I liked being represented by him.

I really did. Soon-to-be retired to a job as a college professor, I consider his students fortunate.

State Sen. Brewer did not run for reelection this year and Anne Gobi, a Democrat from Spencer, replaces the 66-year-old Barre Democrat. It will be a tough act to follow.

Newspaper reporters are cynical about politicians. It is our job to keep watch on the public interest and make sure those elected serve that interest. Citizens have a different view. Citizens, I think, want to feel connected to those they elect. Some vote the party they are affiliated with. Some vote what they think will be change. Some just vote for a pretty face. All want someone in office with whom they can relate.

As a reporter, it is simple for me. I want an honest politician. As a citizen, I want someone who is connected to the place I live and does not need a GPS to find my hometown.

Steve Brewer was in all those cases that kind of state senator since 1997. He is going to be missed in the Worcester Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin District because he has always been a strong advocate for the district, and always kept a positive focus on communities too often forgotten by other parts of the state.

Northern Central Massachusetts needs someone who knows it exists. It is economically and marginal and politically too out of the way for many people to visit. It struggles and has never found a way to replace the farming economy that once defined it.

One person always around to lend a hand was Steve Brewer, who began his political career in 1977 as a Barre selectman. He did not need directions to Templeton or other towns in the area. He was a familiar face, often visiting to announce grants or new projects. Other times he was just visiting or taking part in community activities. He was always welcome. He was charming, interesting and easy going.

Of course he was just a politician. But he was a good politician -- someone who seemed to listen to everyone.

I enjoyed seeing Steve Brewer just because he always had something interesting to say and always seemed to understand the moment.

The day of the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings I was at an event kicking off fundraising for restoration of a one-room schoolhouse in Barre. For those attending, the first word of those shootings was from Sen. Brewer, who asked for a moment of silent prayer. Learning the details later that day, that moment in the little school was all the more meaningful to me.

Another instance I remember, more with a chuckle, was seeing Sen. Brewer standing in my uncle's hay field holding an animated conversation with Abraham Lincoln. It was at a Civil War re-enactment. I walked over and listened as the two politicians -- one modern and real and the other playing the part of a historical figure -- chatted away about Lincoln, the Civil War and other topics. What I found really amusing was that it was quickly apparent that the senator knew more about Lincoln than Lincoln did.

Steve Brewer was a regular at my church on the Fourth of July. He was a fixture at Quabbin Angler's Association banquets, many of which my brother Tom helped organize. On weekends he would often have four or five community events to attend. I always wondered what he defined as free time.

All this visibility is good for a politician, and his populist approach is worth imitating if you are looking to get into politics. What is more difficult to do is make the kind of personal connections he made.

Steve Brewer knows my parents, my children, my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, my friends and others in my circle. He did not get to know those people because I was a reporter -- although that is how I got to know him -- but from his connections to things they are involved in. He took the time to know them and I can safely say, he will be fondly remembered by them.

Contact George Barnes at george.barnes@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @georgebarnesTG
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Barnes, George
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 3, 2015
Words:712
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