THE VETERAN & ACTIVIST – ‘I believe in meeting at the middle ground’

THE VETERAN & ACTIVIST – ‘I believe in meeting at the middle ground’

Emily Cramer

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Finance coordinator for gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler

Emily Cramer knows what it takes to make a difference. She hopes one day to do it as an elected official.

Cramer, 32, of Gray, currently serves as finance coordinator for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. Currently one of just two full-time paid staffers, Cramer says, “Every day there’s a sense of accomplishment.”

She knows a bit about accomplishment. An Iraq war veteran, Cramer spent a year in Mosul helping infrastructure reconstruction efforts. She played a planning role in the Maine Obama campaign in 2012. Prior to joining the Cutler campaign in March 2013, she was development coordinator for the Family Planning Association of Maine. Then there are the 12 years in the Army National Guard, the stint as a public affairs journalist, the 2008 bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Maine at Farmington, the month of Hurricane Katrina relief in 2006. Since her graduation from Lakes Region High School in 1999 and the New Mexico Military Institute in 2001, Emily Cramer has been a very busy woman.

“Doing something to help the greater good was how I grew up,” Cramer says of her childhood in Naples.

She and her three siblings have all served in the military. It made sense as a way of giving back, she says.

Serving in Iraq with the 133rd Engineer Battalion out of Westbrook gave Cramer a chance to do “some soul-searching.”

“I was really conflicted,” she says. “I was against the war but I had a duty. I asked myself, ‘How am I going to absorb all this?’ I wanted to bring back stories about what I saw and who I talked to.”

One of the people with whom she spoke was a 13-year-old Iraqi girl who walked two hours each way to attend school.

“It made me breathe a sigh of relief,” she says. “I thought, ‘We’re not just here at war.’ ”

In Iraq, Cramer was also involved with the efforts of fellow battalion member – and former 2008 1st District congressional candidate – Adam Cote to organize the collection and shipment of school bags from the U.S. to Iraq. Cramer says that operation “influenced a whole generation” of Iraqi children, building hope in receiving an education.

Cramer continues her commitment to fostering hope. At the national level, she belongs to the Truman National Security Organization, “a group of progressive veterans seeking to influence national security based on their experience.” One focus of the group is the national security implications of the U.S.’s oil dependence in the Middle East, she says.

“We want to push Congress to find alternative energy sources,” she says.

That’s not the limit of Cramer’s activities. A member of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, she joined seven other military veterans in late September on a trip to Japan to speak with government and community leaders about national security issues.

A self-described moderate, Cramer says she has “always been the type to listen to both sides. You learn to compromise when you grow up in a house with six people and one bathroom,” she jokes.

Politics have created extremes, she adds.

“Democrats and Republicans are both so polarized. They have moved so far away from their values. I believe in meeting at the middle ground,” she says.

That position makes Cutler “someone I can really believe in,” she says.

Of the many jobs she’s had, here in Maine and across the U.S., she says her current position is the best so far.

For now, Cramer is content to work behind the scenes, but the future may include studying law and public policy, and, one day, holding public office. It would be a natural progression, she says.

“I’ve lived policy. I’ve grown up that way.”

Emily Cramer

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