Born in Caribou, Maine, Collins is a graduate of St. Lawrence University. Beginning her career as a staff assistant for Senator William Cohen in 1975, Collins later became the staff director of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security in 1981. She was then appointed as the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation by Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. in 1987. In 1992 she was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as the director of the Small Business Administration's regional office in Boston. Staying in Massachusetts, Collins became that state's Deputy State Treasurer in 1993. After moving back to Maine in 1994, Collins became the Republican nominee for Governor in the 1994 general election.
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