Successful small businessman.
Sportsman and guide.
Conservationist and leader.
Job creator and visionary.
Lucas St. Clair has been breaking new trails in Maine since the day he was born.
On June 2, 1978, he and his sister were the first twins ever delivered at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft. Lucas came first by 14 minutes.
From a humble beginning, he built a successful small business in Maine, employing more than 40 people, became a professional fishing guide, ran a nonprofit foundation focusing on community and economic development, and led a multi-year effort to create Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, bringing new jobs and new energy to a region that needs both.
Early in life, Lucas and his family lived in a cabin his parents built in central Maine – no electricity or running water and few toys beyond the woods and waters the twins loved to explore. Money was scarce.
He climbed Katahdin for the first time when he was just 10 years old, with his sister, Hannah, and dad, George. It was his dad and grandfather, George Sr., a salesman for Bethlehem Steel, who taught Lucas to shoot a rifle and hunt, tie a fly and canoe.
His love of the outdoors took root in Piscataquis County, where he grew up. He split time between Dover-Foxcroft and Parkman, moving back and forth between schools, spending afternoons exploring the woods or reading on the steps of the public library in Guilford when he wasn’t helping his mom, Roxanne, fill honey jars for her small business. On weekends they traveled to county fairs and trade shows, building a little company that would become Burt’s Bees. He learned early on the value of hard work, integrity and persistence.
After stints in retail and on the production line of a factory, Lucas taught himself how to bake and earned a job at a local bakery where work started at 2 a.m. The two other guys in the kitchen were on work release from prison. The 115-degree basement was a far cry from the cool waters of the Penobscot.
In 1999, Lucas went to culinary school where he learned the art and science of cooking. After graduating he worked 10 hours a day in the big city, making $8 an hour. He decided he could do better back home and returned to Maine.
He started a bakery in Winter Harbor, serving breakfast complete with homemade jams and jellies made from local produce. People loved it and the business grew.
After the first year, Lucas had 12 employees. By year three, the business had expanded again. The staff grew to more than 40 people and so did the work days. Lucas would show up pre-dawn to cook breakfast, work through the day prepping for lunch and dinner, and then change into a clean shirt and finish the night as a server.
It’s a story a lot of small business owners would recognize. Show up at 4 a.m., work right through the night, go home to the apartment above the business and try to sleep. And then comes the paperwork and the worry.
In 2005, he sold the successful business and his old Toyota pickup truck, got on his motorcycle, and headed west to reconnect with a woman named Yemaya, who he had met years earlier and who would become his wife.
He joined her in Seattle, where he continued to work in the restaurant industry and started guiding fly-fishing trips on the side. By the time their daughter was born in 2011, another big change was on the horizon, one with the potential to make history, bring Lucas back to Maine and help revitalize the region where he grew up.
In 2012, Lucas moved back to his home state, temporarily settling in Portland so Yemaya could finish her graduate education at the University of Southern Maine.
Lucas took over as the executive director for Elliotsville Plantation Inc., a nonprofit foundation with a community and economic development mission. EPI was leading an effort to create a new national park in Maine, and it needed help.
EPI owned about 130,000 acres of land in northern Maine, which the foundation hoped to donate to the American people. There was opposition – some of it loud. Some political leaders were skeptical, others were afraid to touch the controversial topic.
But the facts never really changed. Northern Maine was struggling, suffering from the closure of five paper mills in five years. The population was getting older. The storefronts of once vibrant and wealthy towns were empty and falling into disrepair.
Promises of new industry and new opportunity, made by politicians of all stripes, never seemed to materialize.
The Katahdin Region needed a jolt. So Lucas got to work.
He followed the advice often given by Senator George Mitchell when facing a difficult task: He listened.
From bar stool, to kitchen table, to high school gym from Presque Isle, to Shin Pond and Patten, to Sherman and Lincoln, to Medway, Millinocket, East Millinocket and beyond, Lucas met with anyone and everyone who would give their time.
He met with supporters and opponents, faced their tough questions and answered honestly. EPI opened thousands of acres of land up for hunting and other traditional activities and helped to build roads, trails and paths to bring people into the region.
Over time, two things changed: the proposal to create a national park incorporated the ideas and values of the people from the region, and support began to grow.
Hunting and snowmobiling would be permanently protected. The park’s size would be smaller than originally planned, and local stakeholders would have a say in management.
Relentlessly optimistic, Lucas began to make progress. Support continued to strengthen and then on Aug. 24, 2016, President Obama designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
In its first year, the monument is already making a difference. New businesses are opening and others are expanding, jobs are being created and people are visiting.
After thousands of conversations – hearing from Mainers about their communities and their hopes and dreams for the future – Lucas is running for Congress because he knows how important it is to listen and to work for what you believe in, to take tough stands and to keep your word.
Lucas lives in Hampden, Maine with his wife and two children.