While balancing the role of selectman with his work and family responsibilities has been “challenging” of late, Selectman Jim Healy said it was a recent case of vandalism that pushed him to resign from the board less than a year into his three-year term.
Healy announced his plans to step down this spring .
In the letter, Healy, who works in the Office of the General Counsel for the University of Massachusetts, mentions a promotion at work, increasing responsibilities in addition to his job as selectman and three incidents in which his vehicle’s tires were slashed that occurred in May 2007, December 2008 and just three weeks ago.
“I had been doing some soul searching beginning in October about how I was going to be able to juggle all of the things I was now doing,” Healy told Needham Patch. “Unexpectedly, my job changed in August, and I also took up a part-time teaching job at a local college as an adjunct professor. I added those responsibilities to all the other things I was doing at home and, with the selectman obligations, it was getting challenging.”
However, after all four tires on his vehicle were slashed about three weeks ago, Healy said the decision to resign came quickly.
“What really tipped me over the edge was, about three weeks ago, my car was vandalized in precisely the same manner in which it had occurred to me during my last service on the Board of Selectmen, in May 2007 and December 2008,” Healy said. “I concluded, after looking at all the various scenarios, that the one common factor in these three cases of vandalism was my service on the board.”
Healy pointed out that several factors had changed since the first incident. He lives in a different home and holds a different job than he did at the time of the first incident. He also drives a different car than he did when the first two incidents occurred.
The most recent vandalism ended up costing Healy $900 in repairs, he said .
Healy said he did not know of any especially heated debates that may have been going on at the time of the previous two incidents or recently.
“There are always issues that come up for a selectmen,” he said. “I can’t tell you that I know what event it might have been. I don’t know. I am a public servant who speaks my position. You know what my opinion is because I believe that’s what good government is all about. You’re a public servant, which means you need to make public statements and take public positions, and that’s what I did.”
He continued: “People knew where I stood on the issues, and I gather that that may have made me a little bit vulnerable.”
Healy said he believed it was possible for someone to be so angry about his position on an issue that they would carry out these “cowardly acts” of vandalism.
He said he was not aware of similar aggression shown toward any other Needham selectmen but that there had been some vandalism committed against other public servants in the 1990s.
“But they weren’t elected officials, and it had to do with whether or not there would be athletic field lights in town,” Healy said of the incidents.
Healy’s town service began in 1993 when he was appointed to the Finance Committee, a board he served on through 1999. He was then elected as a Town Meeting member in 2000 and served in that capacity through 2003, when he was first elected to the Board of Selectmen. He served as a selectman until 2009, opting not to run for re-election that April.
In 2011, he re-entered local politics, running uncontested for an open seat on the board in the April town election.
Though Healy has said he will step down in April, he may have to do so sooner. According to Town Clerk Tedi Eaton, the last day to post an open position for the spring election is Feb. 7—15 days before the Feb. 22 deadline to submit nomination papers to run for an office.
The town could decide to hold a special election to fill Healy’s position or to leave a vacancy until the next election, Eaton added.
But Healy said he did not want the town to pay for a special election.
“I wanted to make sure we didn’t have to have a special election, which would, of course, cost the town money,” he said.
Whether the seat is placed on the April ballot or another one, it would be for the remaining two years of Healy’s term, Eaton said. The April 10 ballot also will include two three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen, currently held by Moe Handel and John Bulian. they plan to run for re-election.
After hearing about the resignation via Healy’s letter, Bulian said he wished his colleague well.
“I’ve served with Jim for a long time on the board, and Jim has added value as a member of the Board of Selectmen,” Bulian said. “I wish him well."
Healy said he had some issues he would like to see addressed by the board before he resigns but did not want to name specific items before discussing them with the chairman and town manager.
He also said he had not considered pursuing other offices or involvement in local government.
“I’ve done this service for about 19 years, so it might be a chance to step back and reflect a little bit,” Healy said.