This story by Tommy Gardner first appeared in the News & Citizen on March 9.
Morristown Selectboard chair Bob Beeman is stepping down after 15 years, leaving behind a four-person board with two new members and two incumbents who have six years of experience between them.
He departs with a full year left in his term.
Beeman announced his sudden retirement this week to the News & Citizen, saying Thursday’s board reorganization meeting would be his last. He said personal reasons such as a family member’s health problems and a new part-time job contributed to his decision.
“I don’t have the time and energy to serve in the fashion I feel our community deserves,” Beeman said in an email Monday. “I also believe that the town needs new ideas and perspective and it’s time for me to let that happen. I am proud of my record on the board and happy to have served for so long.”
Beeman also said that Morristown’s political climate in the past year or so has become “extremely negative and volatile,” and he had begun to dread attending board meetings, something that used to bring him enjoyment.
“I see many attacks toward the town and myself on social media, people on their soapboxes stating things that I know are totally wrong, people emailing me, texting me and even showing up at my house on more than one occasion, to give me a hard time about the budget or some issue they feel strongly about,” he wrote. “I have never imagined how thankless and ruthless the position has become. I have always thought I had thick skin and I could take the high road, but this last year has proven to almost break that toughness.”
Beeman had choice words for Travis Sabataso, who defeated 20-year incumbent Brian Kellogg on Town Meeting Day after repeatedly rallying Morristown residents to vote down the budget. He said that, for the most part, Sabataso “has done nothing but berate, criticize and insult” town staff and board members.
“He must forget that he is only one vote out of five on the board. He can’t affect a change unless he has support from a majority of the board,” he said. “Not a very smart move for someone that wants a seat on the board. He does have to remember that it is a political position, and you can’t insult the ones you have to work with.”
Beeman said the $10 million budget that voters roundly rejected Tuesday also played a part in his decision, although it was not the main reason. He said he has always “spent money on behalf of the town like it was coming out of my own wallet” and he thinks there are plenty of places to trim.
He said he and his wife voted against the budget and are planning to sell their Morristown home and move to Chittenden County.
“It is sad that I was born and raised here my whole life and feel so strongly about how unaffordable Vermont and Morristown has become that we are going to be moving away ourselves,” he said.
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