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His guide: love for his community

  • Whately town meeting moderator Paul Fleuriel sits in the original meeting room in Whately Town Hall on Tuesday, holding the gavel he used to moderate his first meeting back in the early 70s.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Whately town meeting moderator Paul Fleuriel sits in the original meeting room in Whately Town Hall on Tuesday, holding the gavel he used to moderate his first meeting back in the early 70s.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Whately town meeting moderator Paul Fleuriel sits in the old meeting room of the Whately Town Hall on Tuesday, where he moderated his first annual meeting in the early 70s.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Whately town meeting moderator Paul Fleuriel sits in the old meeting room of the Whately Town Hall on Tuesday, where he moderated his first annual meeting in the early 70s.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Whately town meeting moderator Paul Fleuriel sits in the original meeting room in Whately Town Hall on Tuesday, holding the gavel he used to moderate his first meeting back in the early 70s.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Whately town meeting moderator Paul Fleuriel sits in the old meeting room of the Whately Town Hall on Tuesday, where he moderated his first annual meeting in the early 70s.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

WHATELY — Amid the chatter and clamor that befalls the Town Hall this time of year, one Whately man stands quiet and serene.

Behind his wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes are animated, revealing a side of spunk to this respectable gray-haired gentleman.

In his hand, he holds a gavel, ready to command the people’s attention.

It’s that time of year again — annual town meeting. Each year, townspeople congregate at the Town Hall to vote for the next year’s budget and other issues, financial and otherwise.

Over the past 27 years, Paul Fleuriel Jr. has served as the elected town moderator, leading the town meeting and making sure votes on the articles, 29 or so on average, are followed to the letter of the law.

Whether the town is creating a new water district or building a new elementary school, Fleuriel, 79, observed “it’s a community where you can get things done.”

The town meeting is democracy, Fleuriel said.

“We don’t have to go to Washington, D.C.,” Fleuriel said. “You don’t need a pocket full of money. Come to town meeting, speak your piece and you will be heard.”

With a love of community, Fleuriel sought the moderator job because it allowed him to be active in town. The position was important, requiring him to appoint the Finance Committee and Planning Board, but not as demanding as the busy Board of Selectmen.

As town moderator, Fleuriel is charged with maintaining order at town meeting.

“I got my ways,” he smirked.

Fleuriel remembers one chatty resident who used to attend town meeting.

“He used to talk and talk and talk. There was no way to get him to stop,” Fleuriel said.

The man would pause to take a breath and Fleuriel would quickly swing the gavel.

A few days before each town meeting, Fleuriel meets with the town clerk to go over the agenda.

“It’s a like a rehearsal,” Fleuriel said.

Town Clerk Lynn Sibley, Fleuriel said, is his right hand.

“She does a very good job for the community and she’s approachable,” he said.

Fleuriel also uses “Town Meeting Time,” a handbook of parliamentary law and proper protocol, as a resource.

Before that, he paid attention to his predecessors, Howard Waite and Ken Daniels.

The hardest part about moderating is staying neutral and objective.

“I can’t pick sides,” Fleuriel said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to draw the line to where I need to stop and not get involved in it.”

Over the years, the town has debated several projects. One of the most significant ones, Fleuriel recalled, was forming the Whately Water District in the 1970s and the town water department in the 1980s. Fleuriel, a water commissioner, was among those who pushed the project, but when it came time for the town meeting vote he kept his thoughts to himself.

Fleuriel grew up in Saugus. In high school, he had a part-time job working for a flower grower, who suggested he get a better education. In 1954, Fleuriel enrolled in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts to study commercial flower growing.

At school, he met his wife, Katherine, and the two settled down in Whately to raise a family.

After graduation, Fleuriel went to work for LaSalle Florists.

Over the years, Fleuriel has held several jobs. For 21 years, he worked for Henley-Lundgren Co. as a contractor during the construction of Interstate-91. After that, he picked up the trade of drilling and blasting and worked for Pioneer Explosives until it closed five years ago.

Fleuriel is a jack of all trades.

Donning his white farmer hat, the spirited man can often be seen cleaning up the Whately Town Center Cemetery as the cemetery commissioner. His white pickup is usually parked alongside, across from the Center School, with its bed full of tools.

Other days, Fleuriel, in his blue shirt and red suspenders, is carving and crafting wooden toys and furniture in his garage.

Most of all, Fleuriel enjoys being part of the community.

On Saturdays, he heads to the transfer station to meet up with community members.

“I think staying in touch with community members is important,” Fleuriel said. “I enjoy being busy in the community.”

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 or @RecorderKatMcK

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