MILLINOCKET, Maine — To town residents wondering whether they should run for office, or to those who are being urged to run by their neighbors and friends, Town Council Chairman Wallace Paul had this to say:
Millinocket needs you.
Looking right into the public-access KAT-TV camera, Paul closed his chairmanship and local political career at a council meeting Thursday with a humorous, upbeat and somewhat sprawling speech in which he spoke very positively of his almost five years on the council.
Paul, 53, also described Millinocket as a downsizing community in transition that faces many challenges best met by compassionate, deliberate leadership.
“This is a challenging position and once in a while it’s a difficult position,” Paul said Thursday, but first-timers can expect a lot of “good-natured and witty people” to help make it worthwhile.
“You can expect some confusion at first but you can [also] expect a lot of help from some very reasonable people until you get your feet on the ground,” Paul said.
“I would ask you, please, if you have ever thought about this … call me. My name is in the phone book,” he added. “I am in hopes that some people in Millinocket [will choose to serve]. Now would be a good time to step up and have some influence on the future of our community.”
A councilor since November 2004, Paul is among a half-dozen Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. workers whose jobs are moving to Massachusetts under a nationwide company consolidation plan, company officials have said.
Amid ample praise for Paul, councilors voted 6-0 on successive motions to accept his resignation effective 3 p.m. today, to honor him with a resolve praising his service, and to name Councilor Scott Gonya as his successor as chairman.
Paul abstained from voting on his own resignation and resolve; Gonya abstained on voting for himself as chairman.
In the November election, Paul received 1,083 votes, besting fellow winner and Councilor David Cyr, who had 715. Paul has been council chairman since May 25. He replaced David Nelson, who left town for a job in Milwaukee in mid-2007.
Paul’s departure will leave the council with six members. At least two of the three council seats up for re-election in November will be uncontested, he predicted, and several Millinocket School Committee seats also will be open.
Cyr, Gonya and the other councilors praised Paul for his fairness, good humor, humanity, businesslike approach to politics, common sense and humility.
“I am truly sad to see you go, Mr. Chairman,” Cyr said. “I wish you could stay in the community and retire and we could all grow old together.”
“Well, we are already old,” Paul said.
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said that many of the good projects looming in town would not have been possible without Paul’s leadership.