Wilton man to sit with first lady at State of Union speech

Maxwell is a 22-year-old wind energy technician; selection of guests often a signal about the administration's priorities

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Ed Tibbetts

A Quad-City area man will be among those sitting with first lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address Tuesday.

Lee Maxwell, a 22-year-old wind energy technician, grew up in Wilton, and Tuesday, hell get the chance to meet President Barack Obama and go to the White House, too, a rare opportunity for a young man who graduated from college just a year ago.

Its all happened pretty quickly, Maxwell said Monday, not long before flying to Washington, D.C. Im really excited about it. Its kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the president and the first lady and be in the White House.

Maxwell, who is a commissioning technician for Acciona Windpower in West Branch, said he heard from the White House last Thursday.

A White House official said Monday the people sitting with the first lady are from middle-class families whose lives would benefit from the policy proposals the president will unveil, including the victims of gun violence, military families and people championing immigration reform proposals, among others.

The president also has backed subsidies for alternative energy, including wind power. Its not clear what he might say about the topic Tuesday, but the administration has said his State of the Union address will focus heavily on the economy.

Also sitting with the first lady will be former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, who was awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday; the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl who was shot and killed last month in that city; the founder of a support group for gay military partners and family members; an Oklahoma teacher; and a Colorado physician and businessman, according to news reports.

About a dozen or so people sit in the first ladys viewing box. Selection of the guests often sends a signal about the administrations priorities, according to the Washington, D.C., publication National Journal.

Maxwell said its his job to do the electrical startup on new wind towers. He grew up in Wilton and now lives in Moscow. He went to college at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, which has offered a training program for technicians in the wind energy industry. Its done so in partnership with Clipper Windpower of Cedar Rapids.

The program combined curriculum with hands-on experience.

Maxwell said the White House contacted the college, which eventually led them to him. He said there would be a reception before the State of the Union address, as well as afterward. He said his younger sister, 21-year-old Kimberly Maxwell, is going with him to Washington, D.C.

Shes thrilled, he said.

Lee Maxwell graduated from Kirkwood last year, receiving a degree in wind energy technology. He also is a graduate of Wilton High School.

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