Where is everybody going?
I know six years is not a long time, but it sure seems like I have spent a lifetime being a commissioner. It is not that time has gone slowly; it actually has flown by in many respects. My first meeting does not seem like it was that long ago. But it is incredible how much has happened in that time.
One thing that startles me is the number of staff members who have left in my fairly short tenure.
Our finance director, public works director, chief of police and many others have retired. Additionally, with the resignation of Commissioner Kristen Linfante for health reasons, I will now have served with 10 different commissioners. We often refer to a commission being a “new” commission, even if just one member changes, so this will be my fifth commission.
One thing I have learned from working with all of these people is that no matter what path we take to get to the municipal building, we have one thing in common—we are coming to help. We may have different ideas as to what is needed, but we all came wanting to improve what we already considered a great place to live. It is expected that commissioners come and go, so it is the long-tenured senior staff members who have left that I want to talk about.
I have to begin with Marcia Taylor. Marcia was our finance director and also a member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. It was kind of like having Pitt’s Jamie Dixon as your kid’s youth league basketball coach. Fortunately, Marcia kept the accountant talk to a minimum and addressed the public and the commissioners in terms we could understand. Doing that wasn’t always easy, given that the commission has included professional musicians, golf pros and me, an attorney.
Tom Kelley, our former public works director, was always there to answer my questions and help me solve residents’ problems. Tom’s job was, in many ways, thankless, as is the case in most communities. It seems the only times I called him were to forward a resident’s complaint about a trash or snow removal problem. He always stayed on top of the situation and handled it within a couple of hours. Still, unlike in many towns, we received emails or phone calls on a regular basis thanking Tom and his staff for going above and beyond.
Finally, Police Chief Coleman McDonough will retire at the end of this month. The chief was never one who I ever saw any reason to argue with. First, his experience and training made him an unquestioned expert in his field (and second, he carried a taser.) The police deal with serious crimes, but they also have to deal with residents on more trivial matters such as parking, unshoveled sidewalks and barking dogs. It takes a special person to deal with both sets of issues properly, and the chief had the presence and experience to deal with the big issues along with the people skills, including wit, to deal with the little ones.
If we are lucky, we will find qualified professionals to replace Tom Kelley and Chief McDonough as we have for Marcia Taylor. And maybe 30 plus years from now some Commissioner will write an article about how much current Finance Director Andrew McCreery, who is in his 30s, will be missed after decades of great service to the community.
Although all of our staff can be replaced, it does not mean they will not be missed.