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Roberts, McGillan, Inc. Honored at Chamber's Annual Dinner


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, March 28, 2007, p. 1


Photo:  Phil Roberts, Fort Fairfield's 2007 Citizen of the Year greets guests at the Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner. 

photo by:  David Deschesne

The Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce held their annual dinner at Mike & Maude’s on Main Street this year. 127 people attended the event which honored Phil Roberts as Citizen of the Year and McGillan, Inc. as business of the year.

“We did things a little differently this year,” said Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Shawn Murchison. “Rather than the Chamber of Commerce choosing the Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year, we put it out to the public for a popular vote. Ballots were placed at the town office, Chamber office and published in the Fort Fairfield Journal. These winners truly are the people’s choice.”

Fred McGillan Jr., from McGillan, Inc. was selected by Fort Fairfield inhabitants as Business of the Year.

“McGillan, Inc employs many full-time people and, during the height of the construction season, has an even greater workforce,” Murchison told the assembly. “J.R. and his wife Janet are hard working, community oriented citizens and that is certainly reflected in their company and their manner of conducting business.”

McGillan, Inc’s workload consists of residential site work, utility projects, road reconstruction, landscaping retaining walls and environmental cleanup.

J.R. grew up working for his father’s construction business, Fred McGillan Company. Fred Sr. learned his craft from his father who moved to Maine in 1946. When the rest of his family moved to New Jersey in 1962, Fred Sr. chose to stay in Maine and started his own company. J.R. joined him and worked summers until he graduated from college. J.R.’s dad told him if he still wanted to do this kind of work when he finished school, he would help him to get started.

J.R. earned an engineering degree from the University of Maine in 1987 and decided to come home and take the business to the next level. He returned in the spring of 1987 and he and his dad were given the site for a housing project in Fort Fairfield. The following year, they were awarded a $230,000 sewer job in Fort Fairfield and things grew for them from there.

J.R. slowly built his company during the 1990’s as he obtained larger jobs and increased the company’s bonding capacity. In 1992 they finished up a $1 million water line project at Loring Air Force Base and were then awarded a $1.5 million project for Wal-Mart in Presque Isle J.R. says the Wal-Mart job proved to their critics that they were able to complete a quality job on projects of a significant size.

J.R. and Janet are also looking toward the next generation of McGillans in the construction business as their oldest son, Shane has been learning from his grandfather and father, getting the same level of training and experience that made J.R. so successful.

“One of the pleasures that I have had in assuming this job of town manager is getting to know and work with JR McGillan,” Dan Foster told the audience. “JR has been a supporter of this community and is widely respected for his fair-mindedness and good sense approach in dealing with many issues. It doesn’t matter how busy he is, he is always willing to help. I have seen it with the snowmobile club, the fish and game club, the Lions Club, down at the KofC’s and sometimes even helping out the poor town manager. JR and Janet have both worked hard in running this successful business, raising three wonderful children, assuming leadership roles in our school and community activities. They are a true asset to this community and very worthy recipients of this honor.”

“In addition to being so busy with the company, JR and Janet are extremely involved in the community of Fort Fairfield,” said Murchison. “serving on many boards and committees and volunteering their time and services unselfishly to help Fort Fairfield to refurbish and grow. They have put their heart and soul into projects like the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, The County Bluegrass Festival, our Community Center, the Community Bandstand and the new swimming pool, to name a few. Fort Fairfield is certainly blessed to be the home of McGillan, Inc. and the McGillan family.”

The 2007 Citizen of the Year, Phil Roberts, was also selected by the townspeople in Fort Fairfield.

“Mr. Roberts, as our Citizen of the Year” who for so many years in his very quiet and dignified manner has provided guidance, support and leadership to our community,” said Dan Foster. “Tonight’s honor is long overdue and I am very pleased that we are able to acknowledge the contribution he has made. The Town of Fort Fairfield is a better place because of his efforts.”

John Gorman rose to address the audience and speak about Mr. Roberts’ accomplishments. “So often it happens that a person’s real worth isn’t appreciated until after he or she dies,” said Gorman. “I’m glad that “P.C.” is being honored while he’s still with us and able to see how much we value his contributions to our town.”

Roberts has been known by several nicknames, “P.C.” and Gee - a name he received from his little sister as a child.

“He answers to Gee, P.C., Philip, Philip C; and Mr. Roberts - if you want to be formal - and, yes some days he’s addressed as Judge Roberts.”

Mr. Roberts had a long and illustrious life working in and serving the town of Fort Fairfield. He received his law degree from St. John’s University in Brooklyn, New York in 1953 where he met his future bride, Joan. After passing the Bar Exam, Roberts moved back to Fort Fairfield to practice law with his father, Melvin P. Roberts at their law firm, Roberts and Roberts. For over 50 years, he served the legal needs of many Fort Fairfield people as well as others in neighboring towns, while still contributing his time and effort to serve on various town committees.

Together, the Roberts raised four children; Philip, Stephen, and twin daughters, Jean and Joan.

“Phil and Jean came up from Bangor to be here tonight. Joan traveled from Massachusetts and Steve came all the way from Hawaii. That’s how much they think of their dad,” Gorman said. “Sadly, wife and mother, Joan can’t be here in person, having passed away in 1997 but we know she is here in spirit.”

Mr. Roberts was an elected member of the SAD 20 school board from 1958 to 1964. During that time, the land was purchased which now constitutes the SAD 20 campus and includes the Elementary, Middle/High School and surrounding athletic fields. He also served on the Recreation Committee from 1962 to 1965, chairing that committee for three of those four years.

From 1959 to 1976, Roberts was elected as moderator for the annual Fort Fairfield Town Meeting. In 1976, the town voted to change from a Town Meeting to a Town Council form of government.

He served on the planning board from 1959 to 1969 and was the presiding judge at the Fort Fairfield Municipal Court from 1960 to 1964. In 1964, the court system in Maine was changed from an elected municipal court system to an appointed District Court system.

He served on the Fort Fairfield Public Library Board of Trustees from 1975 to 1995 and as chair of that board for nineteen of those twenty years. He has also, with few exceptions been donating blood twice a year since 1984.

“For 65 out of the last 66 years, P.C. has been the moderator at the Fort Fairfield school system - now SAD 20 - annual budget meeting where the budget for education is up for explanation and either approved or disapproved. Since he retired in 1974, he has performed this service himself and done it at no charge to the SAD.”

Down through the years, Roberts has been an ardent supporter of all extracurricular events of SAD 20 students. “He can be seen at all home games involving the basketball, baseball, softball and soccer of both girls and boys teams. He has also traveled to many away games of these same teams.”

At a recent girls basketball game against Van Buren, Roberts won the 50/50 draw for the first time since they had been drawing it. “He immediately donated his winnings back to the school,” said Gorman. “It is just his nature to make a fine gesture like that. Fort Fairfield’s Citizen of the Year has been giving back to Fort Fairfield all his adult life and it’s fitting that we honor him in this way.”

Fort Fairfield Highway Department Chief, George Watson was also recognized by Dan Foster for his continuing hard work for the town. “When you add up all the hours he puts in, he’s lucky if he makes minimum wage,” said Foster. “George is always there for us, he has great skills and gets things done. He is quick to tell me that we do not have problems, only challenges and opportunities. And his most favorite expression is; ‘We’re all team players here.’”

Foster also recognized outgoing 21st Century Grant after school program director, Karen Saenger who is leaving with her husband Max, since he will be managing the biathlon site at the 2010 Olympic games. “As the director of the 21st Century Program, Karen has developed a team of professionals that has made great strides in students academic achievement, in their abilities to work collaboratively with others and most important in helping to develop a more positive self-esteem.”

The function lasted a little under 2 hours and was once again a good meal and fellowship for the citizens in Fort Fairfield to come together to honor their own.