Much like they say that possession is 9/10ths of the law, presentation is certainly the mother of persuasion. Although I was glad to see an effort moving forward to examine our local form of government, I'm not so sure that the delivery of the message began this persuasive journey of convincing the voters that we need a change on the right track. John Flanagan, in his introduction of the petition article that will ask for an examination of our charter at the Fall Town Meeting, offered an assessment of Selectman Melissa Freitag as "a part-time social studies teacher," based on a question of his recent campaign to take a seat at the corner conference table. For a fella who is standing behind an effort to create more accountability and responsiveness in our local government, taking pot shots at one of its leaders is no way to kick off an attempt to enhance credibility. Let's focus this discussion on what we can fix with Falmouth, not what names we can call its elected officials.
I do, however, like the model of folks like Flanagan, who rose through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force and attained the rank of Brigadier General, then forged success in private life, discussing leadership and accountability. We actually have a gaggle of qualified General Officers who call Falmouth home who could help lead the public information portion of this journey of convincing the public we need change. I can imagine a public forum where management heavyweights like Paul Molloy, Bill McDermott, and most certainly, General Gordon Sullivan, all of whom have impeccable management and military pedigrees, discuss and offer thoughts on how a new system of local control could cut through the malaise and discontent that is pervasive in town now. Gen. Sullivan, who literally helped shape policy and made decisions on behalf of the entire U.S. Army, is an untapped resource and fountain of information and experience that would infuse energy into this fledgling effort. He commands respect walking into a room based on his accomplishments. We need that kind of reliability and integrity if this effort is to succeed.
Speaking of reliability and integrity, many of us in public life use words like that on a regular basis as buzzwords - sometimes the value of them even gets diluted because they are used so much. There is no dilution, though, of the meaning of integrity and reliability when talking about an outstanding public servant and cherished friend like Diane Thompson. Her death last week not only caused a fissure in the Falmouth affordable housing community, it poked a hole in the very soul of our locale. Diane was one of those folks, like the aforementioned decorated General Sullivan, who shifted heads and caused folks to sit up just upon entering a room, as those in attendance knew that an authority on making government accountable and compassionate when it came to providing housing had entered.
Her efforts, sometimes in the face of unfortunate resistance from the Selectmen, to find ways to provide local housing solutions for the workers and middle-class Falmouthites who make this community work, were extraordinary. Her determination, despite opposition, to work for the greater good, just because it was the greater good, will be an important legacy of this wonderful woman.
It will not, however, be her most important legacy. I knew Diane for years in my official capacity, but got to know her on a more personal level in more recent times. She was a woman of limitless kindness and generosity who was a power of example for many women and a dear friend to many more. She touched lives simply with an understanding smile or kind offer to help another. I will be forever grateful to my friend Bonnie O'Neill, a long-time pal of Diane's, for letting me know recently that she was ill. I reached out to her just a couple of weeks ago, and sent her an e-mail while she was in the hospital. It was a touching moment, and although private, I am glad to share it to help share with many of the lives she touched, the boundless love of this kind soul. My note to Diane simply said, "You are like the fella in the Verizon Wireless commercial - legions of people standing beside and behind you, ready to offer a hug, a word of support, or just a supportive glance to let you know we care. We are everywhere - and we are with you." She simply responded, "Thank u so much. Love to u too. Diane." That heartfelt response came less than a week before her time here ended, and her eternal journey began. What a legacy indeed. Thanks for touching our lives, Diane. Love to u too.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.