Hello! I'm Laurie Osher. I am a small business owner, a soil scientist, and I'm Orono's current State Representative. This fall, I am seeking re-election to the State House, where I hope to continue the work I've started.
Over the last decade and in my time as a Representative, I've advocated in support of legislation to protect the climate, fully fund schools, recognize the civil rights of LGBTQ people, provide healthcare for all, grant workers the right to earn leave, restore tribal sovereignty, and provide services for adults with disabilities. If re-elected as Orono’s Representative to the Maine House, I will continue to bring my perspective, experience, vision, and persistence to the work of implementing policies that make Maine a better and more just place to live.
Read on below to learn more about me! For more information about my work in the legislature, see here.
WHERE I COME FROM
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. My mom was a third grade teacher and later a real estate agent, and my dad was a pediatrician. My parents followed the example of their immigrant parents; they were dedicated to family and served in leadership roles in their communities. They volunteered for boards, actively raised funds for non-profit organizations, and instilled a tradition of service in their four children.
The local community-owned ice rink, where my parents served on the board and ice danced as featured skaters in community shows, was particularly important to my family. My brothers played ice hockey and my sister and I figure skated there, competing at rinks throughout the region from shortly after we learned to walk all the way through our teenage years. In school, I participated in the arts and in sports, and I was elected to leadership roles by my peers.
As a teenager, I took a bicycle trip, riding up the coast of Maine to Bar Harbor, and then all the way to Bangor. That first visit to Maine really had an effect on me, and it kindled a desire to one day make it my home.
BECOMING A SCIENTIST
As a teenager, I wanted to learn about farming. As a result, after high school, I spent a year living and working on a Kibbutz in Israel. It is there that I fell in love with soils. I returned to the US and studied soil science and international agriculture at Cornell University. After college, I worked for the USDA Soil Conservation Service (now called NRCS) mapping soils in North Carolina. I attended North Carolina State University and earned a Master of Science in Soils and Geomorphology. My research, conducted during a year living in the Upper Amazon Basin in Peru, was funded by the US Agency for International Development’s agricultural technology transfer program. The goal of the work was to provide information to local farmers to assist them to transition agricultural practices that were more sustainable than shifting cultivation.
I worked as a soil scientist and watershed scientist for the USDA Forest Service in Alaska, Colorado and California. My job was to provide scientific input for land management decisions, to map soils, and to delineate wetlands so that the habitats of endangered species could be protected from deforestation. This was during the late 1980s, when scientists began sounding the alarm that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere would destabilize the climate and the economy. I proposed that the Forest Service begin managing forest soils to enhance their organic matter (carbon) storage capacity, but there was no policy in place to restrict the cutting of trees because of their role in storing carbon in Forest Soils.
From there, I went to the University of California at Berkeley to pursue a PhD in Soil Science. My research was designed to inform policy makers about the role of soils and land management in storing carbon. The research was funded by NASA’s ‘Mission to Planet’ Earth Global Change Program. My post-doctoral research, studying soil C storage in pine plantations and grasslands in Ecuador’s highlands, was completed while working at US EPA’s lab in Athens, GA.
In 1999, a faculty position at UMaine brought me to Orono, and I've lived here ever since. I worked at the university for 9 years, and during that time, I developed a hobby of making buildings more energy efficient. This soon became my business, Osher Environment Systems, which assisted building owners to lower their heating costs and their CO2 contributions to the atmosphere. As of 2022, I work for Eastern Maine Development Corporation, assisting communities to be more resilient to climate change.
FAMILY LIFE IN MAINE
My twins Noam and Zivi were born at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor in the summer of 2001. They attended The Sharing Place at Talmar Woods from age 6 months until they started kindergarten at Asa Adams Elementary school. They were always singing and dancing at home and loved putting on shows. By age 6 they were performing as paid actors on the stage at the Penobscot Theater Company (PTC). They participated in sports and performing arts in school, and continued to perform at the PTC and in the community. Their first Orono Artsapalooza appearance was when they were in 5th grade.
I supported my sons' interests by making costumes for them and by volunteering for local arts organizations. I made costumes for the PTC's children's theatre productions and, after launching my business, I donated consulting and weatherization services to improve the energy efficiency of the Bangor Opera House. When they were in high school, I served as the treasurer for OSCAr, the Orono Schools Coalition for the Arts. Their last show at the PTC, in the summer of 2019, was Mamma Mia. Although Noam and Zivi have since graduated, I still am a strong supporter of the Penobscot Theater.
My children have had lots of love and support from family members who live in other states and visit Maine often. My mom, pictured here with me and my twins, still lives in Philadelphia. In addition to loved ones who are far away, we are grateful for all of our friends, teachers and community members here in Orono that make up our local chosen family. It takes a village to raise children, and I am forever grateful to have had the joy of raising my children here.
ADVOCACY AND LEGISLATION
Over the last decade, I've advocated in support of legislation to protect the climate, fully fund schools, give civil rights to LGBTQ people, provide healthcare for all, grant workers the right to earn leave, and provide services for adults with disabilities.
I have served on various community boards including Congregation Beth El and the faith-based organization Maine Interfaith Power & Light (MEIPL). From 2012 to 2018, I was the president of MEIPL and represented it on the Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition, a group of organizations that advocate in Augusta for improved environmental protection policies. I am also an active volunteer for several local and state-wide organizations including Equality Maine, the Health Equity Alliance, the Maine People’s Alliance, and the Maine Small Business Coalition.
Since my election in 2020 as Orono's State Representative, I've been a voice for just and evidence-based policy. I've been an active member of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee for 2 years. In 2021, I was the lead sponsor of LD 937, a bill mandating the development of recommendations for incentivizing carbon storage in Maine soils.
Outside of my work in committee, I supported legislation to create the state's first ALS incidence registry, helping scientists to better understand the trends and patterns associated with this debilitating disease. Additionally, I cosponsored legislation to address sexual misconduct on college campuses, holding perpetrators accountable while supporting and empowering those who experience sexual violence on their campus. I've also been a strong supporter of tribal sovereignty, voting for both LD 906, a bill that enabled the Passamaquoddy at Sipayik to access clean drinking water, and also LD 1626 (which unfortunately did not become law), which would have restored the right of the tribes in Maine to self-govern.
As Orono's Representative to the State House, I will continue to bring my perspective, experience, vision, and persistence to the work of implementing policies that help our community and Maine at large.
For more on the issues and my record in the legislature, see here.