May 21, 2018
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Jackman residents distance themselves from embattled town manager

Jake Bleiberg | BDN
Jake Bleiberg | BDN
A sign on the Jackman town hall announced an "emergency" selectmen meeting following the revelation that town manager Tom Kawczynski leads a group that opposes Islam and supports voluntary racial separation.
By Jake Bleiberg, BDN Staff
Updated:

JACKMAN, Maine — Locals are waiting anxiously for an “emergency” Tuesday meeting about

the town manager whose statements slamming Islam and supporting voluntary racial segregation have brought what they say is unwelcome national attention.

In the small town near the Canadian border, there is a sense of frustration that Jackman’s reputation is being affected by a public official who is new to the area and whose views are not shared by most residents.

Tom Kawczynski became the focus of intense controversy last week after the BDN reported that a group he runs supports white pride and opposes people “from different cultures” coming to northern New England.

Raymond Levesque, the owner of Bishops Store on Route 201, recalled the discrimination his family had faced when they came to Maine from French Canada.

“I welcome all customers into my businesses regardless of their color, religion, nationality, sexual preference or beliefs, and that does include you,” Levesque wrote in an open letter to Kawczynski that his store manager provided to the BDN. “Please do not drag us further into your cause or agenda as you are only hurting those whom you were hired to help.”

Levesque wrote that his grandfather was forced to change the name of the family store and his own last name to Bishop “to combat the discrimination against the French Canadians that was so common back in the mid-1900s.”

On Monday, French surnames were visible on businesses and mailboxes around Jackman. The suspicion and disdain that mostly Catholic immigrants from Quebec faced in Maine is a living memory in the town and reason many locals took offense upon learning of Kawczynski views, according to Father Aaron Damboise.

The priest at St. Faustina Church said he learned about Kawczynski’s views by reading the BDN, and called the revelations about the town manager “a tragedy” and “disappointing.” He’s heard similar opinions from many of the roughly 100 families that attend the church since the story broke, he said.

“We as a church do not support racism,” said Damboise. “We condemn it and we condemn anything connected to it.”

The town manager, who did not respond to a request for comment Monday, previously denied that the terms racist or white nationalist fit his views or group. On Saturday, he wrote posts on the New Albion website defending his remarks on “voluntary [racial] separation” and appearing to blame the media for taking public statements on his website out of context.

“Never mind the inconvenient fact that I’ve never said a cross word about any minority, and I think ALL people should be proud of their heritage and backgrounds,” he wrote. “That wasn’t fit to print.”

A post on the New Albion website previously stated “while I am not an absolutist on race, understanding the many complications created by the American system, I do believe to the extent we voluntarily separate, the happier every group will be as they regain self-determination.” It appears to have been edited to remove that language.

Following reports of those and other of Kawczynski remarks, a chorus of people and organizations, from The Council on American-Islamic Relations to the Maine Town, City and County Management Association, have called for his ouster.

The Jackman selectmen were tight-lipped about what could happen at their “emergency” meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning. Town lawyer Warren Shay said Sunday the town manager’s beliefs aren’t shared by the elected officials.

In statements online, Kawczynski defended his record as the Jackman manager and said he would not resign. But he also appeared to be preparing for that possibility that he’ll lose his job by soliciting donations, including on the website Hatreon, a crowdfunding site that does not prohibit hate speech.

On its Facebook page, the Jackman-Moose River Region Chamber of Commerce said the local business community was shocked by Kawczynski’s views and called on the town selectmen “to do what is needed.”

Damboise sees an opportunity in the revelation of Kawczynski’s views.

“Jackman has the chance to be the example of dealing with stuff like this,” the priest said.

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