AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage is expected to appoint a new chief legal counsel next week in the wake of the resignation Thursday of Michael Cianchette, who is shipping out to Afghanistan soon for a tour with the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Cianchette, who joined the LePage administration as deputy legal counsel days after the 2010 election, was promoted to chief legal counsel in October 2012 after his predecessor, Dan Billings, was appointed by LePage to serve as a Maine District Court judge.

Cianchette, 29, a 2002 Cheverus High School graduate, said Thursday as he was packing up his office in the State House that his decision to work for LePage was influenced by the fact it put him in a position to make a positive difference for his home state.

“I almost turned him down,” said Cianchette. “I was just starting a career in business and commercial real estate, but I saw this as a chance to make a positive difference.”

Cianchette, who graduated from Boston College in 2006 before earning master’s degrees in business administration and law from Suffolk University, had numerous responsibilities within the LePage administration. In addition to being the author of many of LePage’s veto letters, he was senior policy adviser on taxation, military and veterans’ affairs, public safety and state financing. He was also responsible for freedom of information requests, pardons and executive orders. He said the job was a constant learning experience.

“It has been a lot,” said Cianchette, whose first cousin once removed is Peter Cianchette, who lost a bid for governor in 2002. He is also related to the Cianchettes who founded Cianbro, a large construction firm based in Pittsfield that is now employee-owned.

“The reality is that you just jump into the deep end and start swimming,” he said.

He was also one of the lead architects of LePage’s initiative to renegotiate the state liquor contract on better terms for the state. The revenue from that new contract, once it’s signed, is earmarked to pay past Medicaid debt, but will provide additional revenue to the state for years to come. Even separate from the hospital repayment part of the equation, Cianchette said his work on that initiative was one of his proudest moments working for LePage.

LePage lauded Cianchette in a prepared statement.

“Mike has been an invaluable member of my senior staff. He is an incredibly talented young man who is wise beyond his years,” said LePage. “Mike contributed to all of our administration’s most critical initiatives and hiring him was one of the best decisions we made.”

While Cianchette’s advice for Maine people urged them to become involved in public service, his parting advice for LePage had a different answer.

“I think I’ll keep that between him and I,” said Cianchette.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.