Franklin County has seen an outbreak of political dysfunction influenza make its way through its communities over the past few years. Now it’s Hawley’s turn to suffer from this governmental malaise.
As reported in Friday’s Recorder, a vacancy on the three-member Board of Selectmen has heightened the tensions between the two remaining selectmen to the point where, although town business has not completely ground a halt, residents should not expect much to get done.
“Anything that is not vital to running the town should wait until a new selectmen is elected, so citizens will receive proper representation,” said one of the two remaining officials, Tedd White, in a prepared statement.
Now it may be true that getting a third selectmen via the March 12 special election could lift the roadblock between the existing two selectmen. But White’s decision to limit his interaction with sitting chairman Philip Keenan to a bare minimum leaves one wondering if this demonstration of pique best serves Hawley.
And while frustrations do have a way of getting the best of people, White’s grievances and the dramatic handling of the matter — storming off while the board was meeting — does little to strengthen his argument that meeting agendas are being manipulated or that board votes aren’t being honored.
Instead it’s behavior one usually expects to see on the playground where, after disagreements become arguments over fairness with the end result having someone picking up their ball and heading home.
True, there may be validity to White’s complaints on reorganization of the board, whether the chairman’s post should be shared, the correctness of meeting minutes or any other matter that comes before selectmen. But he loses points — if not respect — in his handling of that situation.
The fundamental issue here is that personal feelings and disagreements are getting the better of how people are acting and their ability to serve their constituency.
What’s happening in Hawley shows that small towns, despite their lack of alignment with classical political parties, aren’t immune from the intrusion of personal feelings into what should be routine municipal governance.