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Last month you may have read a letter to the editor which urged us to be participants in our volunteer fire department. The writer also chastised those who criticize without participating, suggesting that those who don’t take part should be silent: “For those not willing to sacrifice to this cause, yet at the same time speak out against the efforts of those who do, I hope that you can do so in a clear conscience,” wrote Jim Sullivan.
It sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately many of us, for one good reason or another, can’t be active participants in the fire department. Does that mean we may not express our feelings, our observations, our hopes, our suggestions, and, yes, even our criticisms? What a strange country this would be if that were the case; certainly it would be a very different kind of country, and not one where most of us would want to live. Americans, more than any others, hold the right to speak out about our government as one of the most fundamental and highly valued components of our way of life, central to our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Without the right to inveigh our government, we would be an unhappy lot indeed.
In our valley the Fire and Water Boards are pretty much all the government we have, and anyone who volunteers to be a part of it has to understand that it’s always open season and citizens are going to exercise their right to say what they think about how they do their job.
The recent Fire Board election resulted in two new members. They will have problems, both old and new, and they will do their best to solve them. Some of us will be happy with those solutions and some will not, and we can expect the usual sniping from malcontents, both well-meaning and otherwise. That’s the way we are and it isn’t going to change. The Board has already made one small but significant and healthy change, by holding meetings in the evening rather than in the morning, so more people will be able to attend and bring to the board their ideas and suggestions in person. Some will think that’s a good idea, some will not, and they will freely voice their opinions. The first amendment guarantees them that right.
Most of us know that volunteering is a largely thankless and time consuming effort. It would be hard to estimate the amount of time Randy Good and Bruce Kester, no longer on the Fire Board, gave to the community, but it’s safe to say it was substantial. For their time and trouble they suffered quite a bit of vituperation, some of it in these pages. And, like most volunteers, (it’s important to remember that there are many more volunteers than just those in the Fire Department) they received many fewer thanks than they deserved. It’s certainly no secret that I disagreed with many of the actions and policies of the Board when Randy and Bruce were members. But it’s important to note that they participated, endured the invective and did what they thought was best for the community.
We often say to visitors, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes. It’ll change.” Much the same is true about our socio-political structure. Those of us who have been here for half a century or so have learned to roll with the punches, recognizing that things will soon change, not necessarily for the better. We’re a small, insular community, and we have a rapid turnover. Movers and shakers appear among us, stay for a few years and move on. People who live here full time for more than 30 years are a rarity. But whether for a few years or a lifetime, we all have value and we all have something to give. Randy and Bruce did their best, and the community should be grateful to them.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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