Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

March 27, 2014

Lyman issues a departing call for respect

As tone of public debate sours, Lyman leaves public office

After 12 years, Mary Lyman’s had enough.

The tone of political discourse in this country has taken an ugly turn, even in the comfy confines of a leafy little suburb like Andover, said the outgoing selectman.

Lyman said while she’ll miss many of the good things that she helped accomplish in town, she won’t miss the late-night meetings and the sometimes-contentious nature of the new civic dialogue.

“The tone people treat each other with is part of the reason I’m leaving,” said Lyman, who stepped down this week after more than 12 years on the board.

“It’s people not treating people with respect. It’s one of the biggest problems.”

During a recent public hearing on a health insurance plan change for retirees, for example, she said one of the people affected confronted the selectmen “and began yelling at us.”

One day, while grocery shopping, a resident who had a beef with the town tried to push his shopping cart into her path as she entered the store.

She said a local attorney once attempted to bribe her after she reviewed the controversial plans of one of his clients.

And at least one resident “says he’s going to sue me” every time he sees her.

Then, last week, she got an email from a resident who had been friendly with her husband. But instead of seeking a solution to his problem in a nice way, he took on a hostile tone, essentially calling her and all elected officials “idiots.”

Lyman, who has volunteered countless hours as a selectman, said most people are cordial in public. But behind the scenes, via emails and phone calls, people get nasty, she said. And not just with her. Nearly every day, Lyman said, she observes town workers doing their best to respectfully serve the public. Residents should offer the same treatment in return, she said.

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