Richard E. Kendall, a former state representative, commissioner of environmental affairs, governor’s liaison to the Legislature and longtime Town Meeting member, died at his East Falmouth home last week He was 86.
Mr. Kendall was honored for 50 years of Town Meeting service in 2015. At Town Meeting in April that year, Mr. Kendall accepted a proclamation from the state Legislature for his longtime service and said, “I believe this is the truest form of democracy” while receiving a standing ovation in the Lawrence School auditorium. He was reelected this past May.
Years earlier, Mr. Kendall explained his motivation for entering public service at a surprise birthday party in his honor at the State House in 1989.
By that time he had been elected to four consecutive terms as state representative from Falmouth, followed by four years as commissioner of environmental affairs, then six years as Governor Michael S. Dukakis’s liaison to the Legislature. He told his well-wishers that he was first drawn to public service by an environmental disaster: In 1969, thousands of gallons of oil were spilled when a tanker barge, the Florida, ran aground off Fassett’s Point, West Falmouth.
“Before that spill in 1969, I took a lot for granted,” Mr. Kendall said. “The Cape I grew up on was a much smaller place, and the environmental degradation, the overbuilding hadn’t begun.” But the spill “was burned in my mind,” Mr. Kendall remembered.
As a legislator and later as a commissioner, Mr. Kendall said he often called on the resources of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and other Cape Cod scientific organizations to provide expertise in environmental matters.
Megan Jones of Siders Pond Road, Falmouth, was Mr. Kendall’s lifelong and closest friend for 63 years and trusted aide in his political career…
Born in 1934, he was the son of Robert L. and Marguerite L. (Thomas) Kendall. After his graduation from Lawrence High School in the Class of 1952 he attended Brown University, where he majored in political science and earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1956.
Following his graduation, he began Marine Officers Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, and served in the US Marine Corps.
Mr. Kendall and Cynthia F. Carragher were wed at St. Barnabas Memorial Church on December 20, 1956, and spent the first part of their marriage in Virginia during his training. He was discharged as a first lieutenant in 1960.
Mr. Kendall returned to Falmouth and went to work at Kendall Printing Co., founded by his father.
During his time in the family printing business, Mr. Kendall continued his studies at Suffolk University, graduating in 1970 with a master’s degree in business administration.
That year he ran for Democratic candidate for state representative, 3rd Barnstable District, which at that time included Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich and Bourne. The campaign was successful and Mr. Kendall was elected, breaking a years-long hold on Cape politics by Republicans.
As a freshman he served on the transportation committee, then was also appointed to the education committee; in August 1972 he led a study group on needs of the disabled in the areas of transportation, education, employment and rehabilitation; in 1973 he headed the Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the National Legislation Conference on Transportation and guided the natural resources task force, mental health study group, and programs of small towns with a population of less than 5,000. His additional responsibilities included being the legislative delegate to the Otis Air Force Base task force.
He co-sponsored the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment, which was adopted overwhelmingly by the people of the commonwealth in 1976; established by law the first state Commission of Indian Affairs; and secured authorization and funding for the acquisition of the 432-acre South Cape Beach in Mashpee.
He had a 99 percent roll call attendance record throughout his tenure from 1971 to 1977.
Mr. Kendall left the House in 1977 to accept the appointment of Governor Dukakis as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Management. When Edward J. King upset the incumbent governor in 1978 Mr. Kendall’s job appeared to be in jeopardy, but Governor King promptly reappointed him early the next year.
As head of the DEM Mr. Kendall worked on preserving natural resources, including developing a comprehensive water policy, improved forestry practices, protection of coastline, and development of the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program to identify and protect critical species and their habitat; the revitalization of downtown areas with a system of eight urban heritage state parks and business development programs; promoted alternative energy sources and energy conservation; and established improved management with an emphasis on equal employment opportunity. He was a trustee of the Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act, co-chairman of the Resource & Solid Waste Task Force, and a member of the Legislative Commission on Hazardous Waste Management and of the Massachusetts Pesticide Board.
Mr. Kendall resigned on March 13, 1981, to run for the post of Cape & Islands state senator, but he was defeated by a narrow margin in the special election by Paul V. Doane.
For about a year, he did private consulting work and was vice president of development at Falmouth Hospital. When Gov. Dukakis won his seat back he chose Mr. Kendall in early 1983 as his legislative liaison, a position in which he was responsible for coordinating legislation between the governor’s office and the House and Senate. Mr. Kendall held that post until February 1989, when he was appointed acting director of the state Division of Forests and Parks within the DEM.
Mr. Kendall was the governor’s nominee for director of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, but when the division’s state board chose someone else on June 2, 1989, Mr. Kendall returned to his old post as commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Management, the same position he held from 1977 through 1981 under two governors.
In his DEM role, Mr. Kendall had the pleasant state duty of presenting during the Barnstable County Fair an award to the Falmouth Department of Public Works for winning the title of the state’s Outstanding Municipal Tree Farm of the Year in recognition of exemplary forest management practices.
At the close of his 20th year in state government in December 1990, Mr. Kendall acknowledged his political career was over during an interview with the Enterprise. As to his future he said, “I’ve had a couple of conversations but nothing firm. Whatever I do, it has to be something I believe in, something that is a challenge and rewarding and something that I enjoy.”
“When you get the opportunity to serve in such an important position, it’s hard to say no,” he said. “But it’s not something that’s a life job. I think it’s appropriate for managers to move on.”
Asked if this was the end of his political career, Mr. Kendall replied: “Yes, if you’re talking about running for office or considering another state position. But as far as the issues go in which I’ve been deeply involved, the environment, conservation, education, social services, I would hope I will always be active in those. It’s been a great privilege to serve and be able to address some of these issues.”
Mr. Kendall was hired by the Cape & Islands Partnership to Reduce Substance Abuse as community service coordinator shortly after the group formed in 1991. He believed that the partnership could have a long-term impact on prevention precisely because it draws on community involvement and encourages all kinds of approaches, from law enforcement to education to messages prepared by youngsters. “Every approach is valuable,” Mr. Kendall said.
“Prevention may be the greatest hope to the problems,” he said, “this is something we can have an impact on.” And the partnership’s focus on community efforts demonstrates that “everyone can contribute, not just the specialists,” to help reduce substance abuse.
In the 1990s Mr. Kendall sat on the school building needs committee to determine the future of Mullen-Hall Elementary School. He approved of the town’s purchase of the Davisville Road property containing the Emerald family home, a historic Portuguese farmhouse, and in the years to come would serve as chairman of the Emerald House Committee and recommend that the building’s use should reflect the history of the site.
“Whatever happens there, there needs to be a lot of thought given to how do we tell this generation and future generations what the farming industry was in Falmouth, and what are we going to do when we don’t have enough of it,” Mr. Kendall said last February.
Mr. Kendall was a proponent of affordable housing and had worked part time for the housing authority with tenant recertification; in 1999 he joined the last leg of Robert H. Murray’s Housing With Love Walk in support of the fundraiser. He became a member of the newly formed Falmouth Affordable Housing Task Force in 2000, with the goal of exploring numerous options to solve the housing crisis. “Falmouth is different because of its diversity,” he said in a meeting of the group in February 2001. “How can we remain sure the diversity remains if people cannot afford to live here?”
He also served terms on the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and the Islands; and was appointed to the Falmouth Retirement Board by a unanimous vote of the other four members in May 1998.
Mr. Kendall was an early recipient of the Falmouth Heritage Award sponsored by the Falmouth Historical Society. The awards were established as part of the society’s centennial celebration in 2000 and recognize individuals or organizations whose efforts have helped preserve the history of Falmouth, its villages, buildings, vistas or community character, or who have inspired others to value the richness of the town’s past.
A former president of the Marine Biological Laboratory Associates, he had been selected as a trustee at-large to fill a vacancy in the Class of 1993. He was chosen as Cape Cod honorary chairman for the March of Dimes Telethon in 1980.
Ms. Kendall died in 2017.
Mr. Kendall leaves two sons, Richard A. Kendall of Falmouth and John T. Kendall, daughter-in-law Melissa Arronte and three grandchildren, all of Wellesley.