There are few things that better show your character than what you prioritize in life.
I was raised to uphold a basic tenet that has served me well in life: Make no promise that you cannot or will not keep. In my campaigns for a seat on this Town Council, I didn’t do much in the way of your standard political campaign promises. I did, however, promise two things to the citizenry of Southbridge:
1) I would act in a professional manner rather than be another one of those councilors who choose to demean citizens at the podium, roll my eyes, or bark at and over others.
2) Regardless of where the other votes may lay, and regardless of what political pressure may be applied, that I would ultimately always consider what is best for Southbridge, in the long run as well as the short term, as my measuring stick when casting a vote.
I feel, and hope the general public at large feels, as if I have upheld those promises. I have worked hard to serve Southbridge to the best of my abilities, neglecting personal and professional duties at times in order to fulfill duties and obligations as Town Council Chairman; making a point of hearing out anyone and everyone on whatever their concern or issue may be — regardless of how large or small it may be, and regardless of how much I may be diametrically opposed to the belief or argument levied. I have fallen victim to prioritizing the ever-increasing bullet points on my schedule rather than scheduling my priorities.
In addition to my campaign promises, I made one private pledge at home — it is a promise I can and will keep. In order to meet our promises and affirm our priorities, we often must be willing to say no to something else.
I know where my priorities have laid.
I know where my priorities lay.
I know where my priorities must lay.
There is an old proverb: “Let yourself move to the next chapter in life when the time comes. Don’t remain stuck on the same page.”
It is with that adage in mind that, tonight, I announce that I am resigning from the Southbridge Town Council effective January 9, 2016.
I thank all of whom I have had the good fortune to have worked with, and for, during my time here, especially the friends I have made, and also those who were more vociferously difficult to work with, for you’ve all taught me many things.
I wish the Town Council and our Town Manager, Ron San Angelo, the best of luck in successfully navigating the murky waters that lie ahead. The job of bringing viable businesses that do no harm to our community is a difficult one, but with a proactive Town Manager and an experienced and well-connected economic development director, I’m confident we will see an environment in which small businesses, already here and those looking to make a run at the entrepreneurial American dream, will find less red tape, apathy and finger-pointing than in recent years.
I hope that the entire Council and Manager adopts accountability as more than a simple buzz word, but rather consider it a must in practice — whether it be in the upcoming budget process, the policies and actions of every department, and in your own actions. For too long, accountability applied only to a chosen few rather than the whole.
As a member of this dais, particularly as its chairman, I have strived to treat everyone, not just my fellow councilors, but more importantly the citizens and residents of our town, with respect. Some seem to do their best to throw disrespect at you and bring you down to their level, and sometimes it’s awfully hard to avoid falling into their trap, but it is important to show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of your own.
To the citizens, residents and voters of Southbridge, I urge each and every one of you to pay attention to what is going on in and to your town. We cannot afford public discourse to be dictated by nine councilors alone, disgruntled basement bloggers, or a community of individuals who fall victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy of spinning our collective wheels. Get involved, go to meetings, voice your concerns, educate yourselves, and stand for your beliefs because the alternative is not an option. As Plato warned us: “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
If you believe you can make a difference, then act upon that belief. Despite what some believe, one doesn’t need to be a lifelong Southbridgian, nor does one need to be politically connected, nor does one need to come from money in order to earn a seat on this dais, on the School Committee, or any other elected board. As a guy who had just returned to town, hardly earning a working wage while back in school fulltime, and who had never served on a town board — elected or appointed — I ran preaching common sense and decency, having built a positive reputation through fair and honest journalism, volunteer service for organizations and causes that are important to me, and by speaking out against what I viewed as the local government’s overreach and overreaction to problems.
To my fellow councilors, I implore you to put the personalities aside and do what is best for the people of Southbridge. A refusal to consider other perspectives and potentially change your mind based on facts rather than emotion, alliances or politics, is a refusal to change anything for the better. While not a universal truth among the members of the Town Council, the scorched earth mentality propagated by some, both past and present, does no good for anyone. Pointing fingers, plotting ways to gain an upper hand, acting as opposition to a policy or proposal simply because of who is proposing it, or working to aid one particular town department, or to hamstring another — these are not the reasons anyone up here were elected.
In closing, I hope and pray that those of you who will continue to serve here, and that those who will assume these positions in the not-so-distant future, do what they can, in a positive, productive, and professional manner, let Southbridge move to the next chapter. Please, don’t remain stuck on the same page.
Thank you and goodnight.