The View From Here

After I was elected in 2015, I asked to occupy the seat on the dais once held by former Council Member Matt Czajkowski. I had long admired his intellect and insight. He was able to perceive unintended consequences in council decisions that eluded his colleagues on the dais.

But his trenchant observations often brought out defensiveness in other council members. Some reacted by trying to discount his viewpoint and treated him dismissively. Sometimes it seemed council members would vote for or against a project in direct opposition to Czajkoswki’s stance. That was to the detriment of town residents.

As I was packing up my computer after the Nov. 29 meeting, in which I was the 1 in a series of 7-1 votes (Jess Anderson was out sick, which is why the vote total doesn’t add up to 9), I thought: “This is what it feels like to be the Matt Czajkowski in the room.”

On Dec. 6, making room for new council members required a reshuffling of the seating order at the mayor’s discretion. I got switched to the opposite side of the dais, which town manager Roger Stancil said might give me not only a new view of council chambers but a new view of issues as well.

My new seat puts me between two women who think deeply about issues that impact the quality of life of those who live and work in town. They look at a problem from multiple angles. They are alert to unintended consequences of council decisions.

This new council looks more like the real world. Although I don’t expect that we will agree on everything — I would wonder if we were doing our best work if we did — I feel confident that my new neighbors on the dais will be among those on council who will raise the caliber of our decision-making process.

Jane Fonda, in talking about her friendships with other women, said that those women made her “stronger, smarter, braver … and they tap me on the shoulder when I need a course correction.”

My hope is that the new minds and personalities on council will have that effect on all of us on the dais. I hope that the days of eye-rolling, deep sighs, interruptions, sneers and disdainful tones of voice are behind us.

The view from my seat looks better already.
— Nancy Oates

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