Justin Alfond is a real estate developer, co-owner of Bayside Bowl, and Maine state senator from the 8th District, which represents much of Portland. In 2012, at 37 years old, he was elected the 115th senate president of Maine—the second youngest senate president since 1880. Raised in Dexter and Waterville, Alfond lives in the West End with his wife, two children, and family dog, Tipitina.
What was it like to be young in central Maine?
Waterville and Dexter are both small communities where you knew your neighbors. In Waterville, there were Lebanese, Jewish, and many other cultures coming together in a great melting pot. My family lived there until I was about six, when we moved to Dexter because of my dad’s work with Dexter Shoe Company, which was then owned by my grandfather. In Dexter, the whole community was looking out for each other and elevating the bar, not only academically, but also athletically. Our town was always winning state titles. I don’t remember watching much TV. We were always playing sports outdoors or exploring in the woods.
Why did you choose public service as a career?
No one in my family has run for political office or even been too political. It wasn’t something that I grew up doing in high school. In college, I didn’t even understand what a poli-sci major was. I would ask my friends, “What do you guys do? I don’t really get it.” After college, I lived in New York City, and I became friends with Billy Wimsatt of the League of Young Voters. He was starting chapters around the country to get young people more involved in local and state politics. That really captured my imagination, so in 2004, a year after I moved to Portland, I started a chapter here. Then, in 2008, it was time for me to move aside and give somebody else a chance to run the organization. My wife and I were both thinking about going to graduate school on the West Coast when the state senate seat in Portland opened up. At the urging of mentors and many other folks, I decided to run for public office. Being a public servant is something that I love and I’m passionate about. I like giving back, adding value, and helping Maine be the best state it can be.
You are also the co-owner of a bowling alley?
Four years ago, my friend Charlie Mitchell and I decided to open up a bowling alley. He and I had lived in New Orleans at the same time, while I was going to Tulane University. We didn’t know each other, but we both loved to go to this incredible spot called Rock ‘n’ Bowl. When Charlie started a league here in Portland, I joined its second year. We quickly became friends and felt that we should open up our own place in downtown Portland. Together, we found a great location and built Bayside Bowl. We bring together people of all ages to bowl and eat good food, listen to live music, and play bocce and cornhole outdoors. Most people are smiling when they come into Bayside Bowl. That’s a fun thing to be a part of.
How do you feel about the Portland economy?
There are many aspects of Portland’s economy that are doing great. Housing, parks, retail, art, hotels, music, restaurants, and creativity are hot. Portland is a place that many want a piece of. Whether you are a young family, entrepreneur or retiree, Portland is on your list of places to visit and live. That being said, there are some cracks to our city and we can’t just ride this economic wave without addressing our schools, livability, and small local business advantage. It’s a very exciting time for the city.