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Congratulations, Consolations, And Commendations



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Congratulations, Consolations,

And Commendations

Congratulations to the winners. Consolations to the losers. And commendations to the citizens who stuck with the electoral process all the way to the end on Tuesday to select a new administration for the Town of Newtown.

That process, whereby our community asks itself the question “Where to now?,” has yielded an answer articulated this year by 6,485 separate voices in the form of 40 persons of varying political persuasions and temperaments poised to take office next month. This group, from the new first selectman to the new alternates on the Zoning Board of Appeals, must now answer the challenges of leadership. The first of these challenges will be to interpret the definitive answer to that all-important where-to-now question, which will be daunting given the mix of political affiliations and agendas the electorate has installed in the town’s key governing boards for the next two years.

Looking at the roster of Newtown’s new government, we see a few good leaders, many good managers, and one or two contrarians, which in our view is just about the right mix. The leaders shared a vision with voters and were rewarded for conveying a sense of direction and motivation even in the disorienting vortex of an election campaign. Their vision represents risk, but also the possibility of positive change. Vision without implementation, however, is mere evanescence — and that is why good managers are indispensable. The many incumbent and experienced volunteers who were returned Tuesday to Newtown’s boards and commissions preserve for all of us a lineage of administrative skill and institutional knowledge that provides a counterbalance of stability against the risks of visionary change.

But what of the contrarians? What purpose do they serve, other than to frustrate and impede the progress of our leaders and managers? Like the burr under the saddle, the thorn in the side, some people just seem to make life unnecessarily difficult. They ask the ridiculous question, pose the impossible hypothetical, and espouse the insupportable position. Their value, however, lies in the fact that once in a while, they are right — right when everyone else is wrong and conventional wisdom fails us. In dire circumstances, they are our ace in the hole.

With all the key players in place, there is just one vital component left for a successful town government. And that is respect. Whether you spell it out in caps like Aretha Franklin or prefer the grudging type delivered under your breath, respect is the lifeblood of good governance. And it needs to run in every direction, from the leaders to the managers to the most stubborn contrarian and back again. Everyone has a place in the process as long as there is respect. Once disrespect shows up with its entourage of name callers, blame layers, insinuators, and character assassins, the clear answer to that important question “Where to now?” becomes “Downhill fast.” Avoiding this fate would be the sincerest show of respect by our newly elected and reelected leaders to those commendable citizens who have entrusted this remarkable town to their good offices for the next two years.

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