Footprints in the Industry
by Jennifer Grace, Maine Energy Marketers Association
Celebrating Jamie Py’s 25-year career with the Maine Energy Marketers Association
“We have much to be thankful for. This is the time for thankfulness; actually, every day is the proper time to be thankful. Simple affirmations of the beauty that surrounds us, the families that support us, friends and fellow workers that make our day.” These are the words of Jamie Py in his last address to the members of Maine Energy Marketers Association (MEMA) in the Fall issue of the MEMA Mag.
It is true and many will agree that there are people in this world, rare as they are, who we would classify as true innovators. Every now and again it happens, not very often, but it does happen, when you will come across a person like this. Jamie Py is exactly that person.
Jamie fought for change during his 25-year career at MEMA. He was innovative and understood that change was essential to any industry, but especially the energy sector. He was both an idealist and a realist if you can picture that combination. He had great ideas for the industry and would not stand for misinformation that was often associated with it.
It was during the natural gas fight that Jamie said, “Betting on future commodity prices is a gamble with State money. You might as well go to the Oxford casino and bet on the roulette wheel.” He was strongly involved in the clean air and environmental impact fight. “Gambling” the future using nonexistent funds in the name of “good-doing” was not acceptable. There is never logic in jumping from the frying pan into fire. He believed that getting to a cleaner future is possible, but not at the expense of the present. He urged politicians to be 100 percent sure they understood the science behind the cause, else the population suffer a fate much worse. He always said, “You cannot kill a problem with a problem.”
Understanding the intention of every campaign is the best place to start when you need to decode the truth. Jamie didn’t just fight legislation — he fought other organizations, like utility companies that were falsely campaigning and selling appliances, such as heat pumps, in order to sell more utilities. In a 2017 interview with Oil & Energy, Jamie said, “The utilities would love to sell more electricity, so they have embarked on many campaigns to push electric heat pumps. We have defeated a few attempts by utility monopolies to position themselves as the primary sellers and/or installers. I think that we’ve finally arrived at a place where the utilities understand they are not service and installation companies.” Jamie felt strongly that it should be left up to the experts, such as MEMA’s member companies to recommend which heating units were best for people’s homes.
Jamie believed in the good of the energy sector. He wanted to see MEMA members succeed in a way that was based on fact, morality and science. Misinforming the people was the worst crime in his book. He absorbed the bigger picture, filtered out the false information and recapitulated the facts in a digestible way to the general public. It was his superpower. Speaking, testimonies, television and radio interviews, as well as countless articles and blogs, are all vehicles Jamie Py drove to reach the people. Many who worked with Jamie will tell you it was not uncommon for him to pull out charts, graphs, and studies to better educate not only the members of MEMA and his colleagues, but the government and legislature as well. For this and many other reasons, Jamie is both well respected and genuinely trusted.
Charlie Burnham, owner and operator of Charlie Burnham Energy & Heating Service, reflects, “We were up in Augusta, and Jamie was explaining to me how things work. I was still naive at that point. I had a suggestion and Jamie says to me, ‘That is a good idea, Charlie, but that’s not how we do things around here because it would make too much sense!’ And that was my first introduction to the fuel scene in Augusta. Jamie taught me a lot that day and throughout the years working with MEMA.” It is true, Jamie had a great, quirky sense of humor, but above all he was a mentor to the membership and the staff.
Similarly, Will Beck from Gulf Oil, who worked at MEMA under Jamie writes, “Great mentors don’t just walk into your life. While I have been lucky enough to have a few — a great dad, an awesome boss when I got my first sales job — Jaime Py will always stand out as a great one. He quickly went from a boss to a mentor and has become a great friend and confidant.”
Following the Providence Resolution for a carbon free future by 2050, MEMA accepted the National Biodiesel Board’s Industry Partnership Award at the National Biodiesel Conference this past January for innovation in Bioheat® fuel. The truth is Jamie Py is a forward thinker. He was fighting for a future in Bioheat long before Bioheat was even a “thing.” In 2006 and 2007, Jamie pushed to get ultra-low sulfur heating oil in Maine. He saw what was coming and paved the road for fuel dealers across the State. He knew that petroleum marketers would need to unite forces to fight the good fight, so in 2011, Jamie led the charge in making what was known as the Maine Oil Dealers Association the more current Maine Energy Marketers Association.
In 2013, Jamie fought to defeat the demise of the terminals in South Portland, which would have had catastrophic results for local distribution. He fought tirelessly against unlawful taxes in the State of Maine and beyond: gas taxes, heating oil taxes, and the most recently proposed carbon taxes. In early 2019
following the LD 424 bill to levy on the good people of the State of Maine a carbon tax, Jamie published an article staunchly defending heating oil businesses and consumers against unproven “feedback models.”
Understanding his respect for the industry as well as his compassion to the people, it is no surprise that in 1996, under Jamie’s leadership, MEMA started the first association-based, membership-owned and -directed HVAC training facility in Maine. Formally known as the MEMA Technical Education Center, it remains to this day the largest HVAC training facility in the Northeast and a model for other HVAC schools in the nation. This was the perfect way to contribute to Maine’s economic stability – filling jobs at the same time as filling the MEMA membership’s need for well-trained technicians.
With this same mindset, in 2015 Jamie worked with his longtime Benefits Administrator Robin Manson to turn MEMA’s health insurance program into a self-insured trust, which has been an incredible benefit to MEMA’s membership and saved them a lot of money over the years.
Dedicated as he was to his career, Jamie was also a family man. He coached numerous soccer and baseball teams for his kids. He served on the Energy Assurance and Emergency Management Planning Committee; Buildings, Infrastructure and Housing Committee; EMT Low Income Advisory Group; Efficiency Maine Trust Board; Maine State Chamber of Commerce Environment Committee; and the Board of Regents for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Organization Management. He was dedicated to the industry not only on the State level, but on the national level as well and stayed involved both with NEFI and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America. In 2018, Jamie, along with other state association executives, did everything in his power to make sure that the reauthorization of the National Oilheat Research Alliance became a reality.
“Jamie was promoted to president during a divisive time at MEMA,” explains Jonathan Mapes of H.A. Mapes, “after which he brought the board of directors together and led MEMA to what it is today. He is a family man both at home and at MEMA, very collegial. He can say things without offending the opposition, which is why he was well liked in Augusta. Jamie has a way of comforting others. MTEC, and health and workers’ compensation trusts were created under Jamie’s leadership. The Jamie Py era was outstanding.”
Needless to say, Jamie is an icon for the petroleum industry both in Maine and nationally. This is why on October 30, 2019 when Jamie Py suffered a severe stroke, it left his colleagues, friends, counterparts and partners heartbroken. Thankfully, Jamie survived, but not without significant repercussions, causing him to be unable to work for the foreseeable future. Henceforth, Jamie has resigned from the association. Nevertheless, the good work he has done continues on and will do so for many years to come.
The Maine Energy Marketers Association would like to invite you all to join Jamie in a celebration of his incredible career and all that he has contributed to the industry. It has been a very difficult year for the Py family, and because of this, MEMA’s Executive Board — who have already donated over $45,000 to the Pys — are happy to announce that MEMA will be using their annual golf tournament to show their great admiration and appreciation of Jamie for his 25-plus years of commitment to the association and the industry. If you would like to contribute, please visit MaineEnergyMarketers.com/Par-For-Py-2 or call 207-729-5298.