I learned quite a bit about teamwork this week. On Saturday, I ventured to Hyannis with my good buddy and longtime Falmouthite Ken Weber for his son KJ's birthday to play paintball. Accompanying us on our paramilitary afternoon sojourn were Lawrence School standouts Nate Rockwood, Craig Greene, and Nick Perrito. We had a blast. Dressed in old clothes and donning hard plastic protection on our faces and hands (those paintballs hurt), the six of us jumped into a jungle of plastic barriers and quickly learned the meaning of teamwork, effective communication, and respecting our colleagues - we'll get to a local application of those concepts in a bit. We divided into teams and took turns in leadership roles and became immediately familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of our teammates - I still have the welts as a not-so-gentle reminder of those lessons. KJ, Craig and I teamed up for the most impressive and powerful alliance of the day, reducing our opponents (particularly the loquacious but fragile Mr. Rockwood), to a paint-stained, withered group, sullen and sunken in defeat. At one point, we thought we might have to bring Nate home, as his fever-pitched wails and yowls tugged on our compassion and sympathetic sides - almost. He limped through the day, though, an emerged with a newfound humility.
Anyway, this quest for paintball supremacy required us all to really get to know the members of our team and become unified in both our approach to the game and our goals. We needed to quickly adjust and understand that to be successful as a group, we needed to share a common goal.
My adventure in paintball has some applications for the ongoing saga of managing our solid waste issues in Falmouth. The recent news that John Elliot, a fixture on the local government scene for more than three decades, has resigned from the Upper Cape Regional Transfer Station (UCRTS) Board of Managers, was like getting hit squarely in the gut with a paintball (that happened on Saturday) - it smarted initially, and the pain remains. I first met John nearly twenty years ago, when we both ran for the same seat on the Board of Selectmen, John as an incumbent and me as the upstart kid of a challenger. Although he lost that race, his dedication to local government - and to Falmouth - never waned, and he took his seat on the Board of Managers to continue his public work in public works. He had previously served as an elected Public Works Commissioner and knew (and knows) a thing or two about solid waste. Over the years, I enjoyed his perspective on a host of issues, and could always count on his no-nonsense style and his ability to cut through the sometimes overwhelming minutia, especially with a regional entity like the UCRTS. His presence will be missed and we owe him a hearty thanks for putting up with years of garbage - literally and figuratively.
So my disappointment was significant to hear John's lament on the lack of teamwork and unanimity between the Board of Managers, the Falmouth Board of Health, our local Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and the local trash haulers on the recent scrum over a decades-old Board of Health regulation on solid waste hauling. It seems that all John wanted was a level playing field, so that all of our trash haulers had to play by the same rules. The Board of Health's apparent capitulation on this fact has caused one of our longest standing public works stalwarts to hang up his workboots for good. Perhaps a group paintball excursion will help change things. Those paintball lessons of teamwork, effective communication, and respecting colleagues could sure come in handy.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.