Town official steps down after 36 years of service in Conway

  • Joe Strzegowski has served the town of Conway on various boards since 1984. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2020 4:41:24 PM

CONWAY — When Mary McClintock and long-time public servant Joe Strzegowski first crossed paths, they sat on “opposite sides of the table.”

It was 2002, and the town was considering a proposal by AT&T to bring a cell tower to the hill next to the Conway Grammar School.

“I was part of a group concerned about that cell tower. … There was about a year and a half of meetings and negotiations,” McClintock recalled. “Joe was on the Selectboard at the time.”

In 2002, the Selectboard — which Strzegowski was elected to in 1984 — functioned as the Planning Board, too, she explained, which meant the Selectboard was responsible for both negotiating the lease with the company and reviewing the special permit application.

McClintock recalled the day Strzegowski personally sat down with her and the group working against the cell tower. He met them on someone’s porch, where they spoke over tea and snacks.

“What really struck me was how well he listened. … We were cranky people, but he listened well,” she said.

He listened to their concerns and he explained to them the benefits of having the cell tower on town-owned land, as opposed to private property.

Ultimately, the special permit was granted, much to McClintock’s dismay.

“At the same time, I felt like I should write them a thank you note, and that was largely because of Joe,” she said. “(The board) felt like they were doing what was in the best interest of the town.”

Service

About a decade later, in 2012, Strzegowski was elected to the Planning Board — which had only recently become a separate entity from the Selectboard.

Shortly afterward, McClintock was elected to the Planning Board, too.

“There we were, sitting on the same side of the table,” she said. “I got to experience him as a colleague. … His depth and breadth of knowledge about the community of Conway is phenomenal.”

And now, as Strzegowski steps away from town government for the first time in 36 years, McClintock feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside him.

“Learning from him — and the relationship I’ve had with him — is absolutely core to my experience of being in Conway town government,” she said.

McClintock said he has been both a mentor and a role model to her.

“He’s got a great ability to look at the incredible minutia of a law … or a site plan,” McClintock said. “He can zoom in on the really small details, and he can zoom back out and look at the big picture. That’s really important.”

Thirty-six years

In addition to his 24 years on the Selectboard and eight years on the Planning Board, Strzegowski served for four years as the emergency management director. He still is a member of the Wastewater Committee, which is currently made up of three members affectionately referred to as the “sewer rats.”

Selectboard member John O’Rourke said he was sorry to hear it announced at the June 20 Annual Town Meeting that Strzegowski would be ending his final term on the Planning Board, and thus his 36-year tenure of service to the town.

“We have a core group that … are there when the town needs them,” O’Rourke said. “And Joe was a very key part of that.”

O’Rourke recalled meeting with Strzegowski when he first joined the Selectboard nine years ago. He had reached out to the former Selectboard member, seeking advice in his new role.

“I asked a lot of questions, and he gave me a lot of insights,” O’Rourke said. “Joe’s that kind of guy; he’s there to help whenever anybody asks.”

Strzegowski was formally recognized and thanked for his service to the town at Annual Town Meeting last month.

McClintock offered a few words, and state. Rep. Natalie Blais presented him with a certificate from the state.

“The House of Representatives offers its sincerest congratulations to Joe in recognition of your decades of service to the town of Conway,” she said. “The entire membership extends its very best wishes and expresses the hope for future good fortune and continued success in all endeavors.”

In appreciation

Strzegowski, who first got into town government in 1984 because of his involvement in the Lions Club — which had a theme of civic engagement — said he didn’t get to thank all the people he wished to thank after the Town Meeting presentation.

“There were so many people that helped me along the way. I couldn’t possibly name them all,” he said, noting in particular David Chichester, a former Greenfield Recorder Citizen of the Year. “So I’d certainly like to extend my appreciation to those people. I didn’t do it alone.”

Thinking back on his years of service, Strzegowski recalled the “interesting characters” he encountered at town meetings; the dedication of the 100th anniversary of Field Memorial Library; the rededication of the Burkeville Covered Bridge; the year Town Meeting was moved to the United Congregational Church because of a bomb threat; and finally, the year one of the Kennedys made an appearance at a town parade.

“In many ways it was enjoyable … or I wouldn’t have done it so long,” he said. “It was rewarding.”

But now, he said, it’s time for a break.

“I’m going to slow the pace down a little bit, try to be a little less civically involved,” he said. “I’m going to spend some time with my grandchildren and take a little time for myself after all these years.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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