Gov. Janet Mills speaks at her inauguration ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at the Civic Center in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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On Wednesday, Gov. Janet Mills was inaugurated into her second, likely final term in the Blaine House. That evening, she delivered her second inaugural address.

It went fairly long.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see a few different inaugural addresses. One thing I’ve learned over the years is to look at how they end. The meat of the speech is often worked over with members of their team; the words may not fully be the speaker’s own.

For example, the prepared text of Mills’ speech asked whether earlier Mainers’ would have ever imagined that “our granite quarries would be rendered obsolete by the invention of concrete?”  

That line hit me funny. And I’m guessing it was not hers.  

Humanity has known about — and used — concrete since antiquity. Its “invention” did not render quarries obsolete; changes in construction methods did. I’d wager Janet Mills knows that. Her brother Paul is an adept historian, while her brother Peter runs an agency that buys a lot of concrete, to say the least.

But the end of the speech generally belongs to the speaker. It is their opportunity to put their final stamp on the address.

Four years ago, she ended on “welcome home.” This year, it was “the best is yet to come.” It was a nice tribute; the phrase was often used by her late husband.

Both of former Gov. Paul LePage’s inaugural addresses ended with a call to “get to work.” It fit him.  

President Barack Obama riffed on George Washington in his first address, and leaned into soaring rhetoric in his second. President Donald Trump, always branding, closed with “make America great again.”

Mills’ declaration that “the best is yet to come” is a strong theme. It reflects confidence and suggests that she has purpose in mind, likely shared with her trusted advisors.

That is where you go back to the text of the speech to try and determine what that purpose is.  Notably, what is not said is often just as important as the topics actually chosen.

The word “tax” only appears once in Mills’ prepared remarks. She was lauding historic building credits. If her inaugural address is the natural capstone of her campaign, it appears she remains committed to opposing tax increases.

Neither “firearms” nor “gun” show up in the text. While many progressives in Maine continue to advocate for new restrictions on legal firearm ownership, it seems as if Mills will support our existing laws without need to change them.

She did not address the “clean energy corridor” as that battle continues to be waged in the courts, nor did she talk about the “Our Power” proposal to take over the assets of Central Maine Power and Versant. Discretion is the better part of valor, as those issues are being fought elsewhere.

These absences hint at areas of alignment with the minority Republican caucuses. In the months ahead, Mills may find she needs their help even as they disagree elsewhere.

One of those disagreements was on display Wednesday. A few hours before the inauguration, Augusta saw a legislative fight over the $473 million bill to send out $450 checks to most Mainers. It barely eked out enough votes from GOP members to take effect immediately.    

Other fights are on the horizon. There are likely to be strong disagreements between Mills and members of her own party. She has vetoed bills sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and stopped several massive labor union-driven changes to Maine law.

Several times she needed Republicans to stand with her. They did.  

Nitpicking on concrete aside, there was not much to take issue with in Gov. Mills’ second inaugural address. There were several concrete issues she avoided; if she holds fast, the state will be all the better for it. And the GOP can stand with her when she is right, and work to right her — and legislative Democrats — when they are in the wrong.

Hopefully, for Maine, the best is really yet to come.

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Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.