Heat and Light

Aug 9, 2018 by

By MARK SARDELLA

MARK SARDELLA

Nothing’s been easy for the Town Council lately. Even in the normally meeting-sparse dog days of summer, they just can’t seem to stay out of the doghouse.

Routine actions like approving a few kiosks or filling a vacancy on another elected board are fraught with peril in this summer of discontent. This week’s mini-uproar is over the vote to appoint Wayne Tarr to fill a vacancy on the Municipal Light Department Board of Commissioners.

The main complaint – or at least the one that people are willing to articulate – is that some members of the Town Council made up their minds before seeing who all nine applicants were.

Most, if not all of the candidates were qualified for the position. But in the end, it came down to a choice between two: Wayne Tarr, a former selectman, Board of Public Works member and Finance Committee member; and Phil Courcy, a retired engineer with National Grid.

Courcy was the preferred choice of three of the remaining four MGLD members. Tarr had the votes of five of the seven Town Councilors. In the end, Tarr had six votes to Courcy’s five in Monday’s joint meeting of the two boards to make the appointment.

Soon after Bill Boodry resigned from the WMGLD board last May, Tarr began approaching Town Council members to indicate his interest in the position. That he would express an early interest in filling a vacancy on the Light Commission shouldn’t surprise anyone. Tarr ran for the MGLD board in the Town Election just last April, losing by a few hundred votes. Running for an office is usually a pretty good indication of serious interest in the position.

Now, people are suggesting that Town Councilors had no business committing to anyone before they knew who all of the candidates would be.

At Monday’s meeting, Town Councilor Ann Santos had the forthrightness to admit that Tarr had approached her early and she had pledged her support to him before the other names had been submitted. She has known Tarr for decades and placed a lot of stock in the fact that he had recently run for election to the Light Commission. She said that she had given her word and would not go back on it.

Keeping your word used to be an admirable quality. But the same people who question the rectitude of committing to a candidate early would have been happy if one Town Councilor broke her word and switched her vote so that their candidate would be appointed.

Santos’ only crime was honesty.

Part of the issue may be that some people are unfamiliar with this method of filling vacancies that occur between elections via a joint meeting of the Town Council and the remaining members of the other board.

But it was no mystery to a veteran of Wakefield politics like Tarr. He knew exactly what the process was and what he needed to do.

If institutional knowledge gave Tarr a leg up in this process, then I for one am glad to know that longevity and Wakefield roots still count for something, even in 2018.

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