Wes Ewell

Volunteering and Town Meetings are two old New England traditions. Both are alive and well in Bourne. The town meeting form of government may be the purest form of democracy ever conceived and is nearly impossible to corrupt. Every voter has a chance to speak and gets an equal vote, along with the opportunity to step up and make a difference.

Our local government is actually run mostly by volunteers. We have department heads who are qualified professionals, with staffs of dedicated and experienced people handling the day-to-day business. But the most important policies, budgets and programs are created and managed by unpaid volunteers serving on 48 boards and committees. With rare exceptions, even our elected officials get no pay or only token salaries.

These folks bring expertise to the table that the town could never afford. They offer lifetimes of knowledge and experience as business owners, executives, lawyers, accountants, teachers and technicians. Most of their work goes unnoticed and seldom rewarded.

Three of those volunteers deserve special notice. Bob Parady, Sallie Riggs and Mary Jane (MJ) Mastrangelo have each made volunteer contributions to Bourne that have made a real difference.

For 18 years Bob Parady has led our Town Meetings with fairness, patience and gentle restraint. As town moderator he has appointed members to the finance and charter compliance committees. This year, he decided not to run again for the post. Bob also was a selectman/assessor/sewer commissioner for 18 years, on the planning board for three years, and served on many other volunteer committees.

Sallie Riggs lives in Falmouth but has been the driving force behind the revitalization of Main Street, Buzzards Bay, as Bourne’s downtown. Sallie helped create the National Marine Life Center, established the Bourne Financial Development Corporation and for more than a decade led the Main Street Steering Committee. She also played leading roles on the transportation advisory committee and the wastewater advisory committee.

Because of Sallie’s vision and dogged determination, we now have Keystone Place, and will soon have the Hampton Inn, Calamar Apartments, and a wastewater treatment facility that will enable additional new development and redevelopment downtown. In every case Sallie worked with the developers to convince them that it would be worthwhile to invest in Bourne and to guide them through the approval process. Someday we may see even more economic benefit from her vision for a technology park on the Ingersoll land in Bournedale.

And then there is MJ. Mary Jane Mastrangelo may be the hardest working volunteer the town has ever seen. She has for years chaired the finance committee and the capital outlay committee, and regularly participates in the meetings of many other committees. When a perfect storm of events drove the cost of the new wastewater treatment facility well past the budget, MJ stepped in and showed town officials how to make it work.

Serving on a town committee can be exasperating at times,but also wonderfully satisfying. There is always more work to do than there are hands to do it.

Our town is blessed to have so many who are willing to step up and do the work, but we could always use a few more volunteers.

Wesley Ewell lives in Bourne.

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