By Meredith McCulloch
Selectmen applauded the service of their colleague Mark Siegenthaler at their meeting on March 13, as he ended his final term on the board. Siegenthaler’s term ended Saturday with the election of his successor, Edward Pierce. Siegenthaler served seven terms, 21 years, as Selectman and decided not to seek another term.
“Everyone I ever served with always was there for the good of the town,” Siegenthaler said Monday night and went on to thank Town Manager Richard Reed for his professionalism and to thank his wife Diana and their three daughters for their support of his volunteer service.
Townspeople considering a role in Town Government might heed Siegenthaler’s words about the rewards he found. “I would say that seeing the results of your work in your own town, right in front of you, can be very rewarding. If you like to address public problems, if you like to implement government policies, if you want to contribute to making government work well on behalf of everyone; then run or volunteer for local office. Using your expertise to ensure that our government serves us well, spends our money responsibly and provides what we need, happens most directly at the local level.”
When asked by The Citizen about the highlights of his seven terms, Siegenthaler replied, “One [highlight] is participating as we went through evaluating and investing in all of the town’s major facilities. During my time we have built, reconstructed or expanded the library, the fire station, the police station, all four schools, the new DPW building, the town center building, the old town hall, and the current town hall.”
“Another highlight is all the work we have accomplished to provide affordable housing. When I was first on the Selectmen, we were talking about zoning changes that would allow for more housing and wrestling with the fact that the town’s affordable housing supply was relatively low. We went from having around three percent affordable housing when I first started, to over 18 percent now. That is a real accomplishment for the town and I’m happy to be one of the officials that helped address the growing need for affordability.”
When asked what issues have been particularly challenging, Siegenthaler named the Town’s relationship with Massport and the commercial airport at Hanscom Field. On the one hand, Hanscom serves a regional economic need, he said. “On the other, it poses many challenges in the form of physical impacts that are felt by all the surrounding communities. Trying to balance those factors has been difficult at times.”
Commenting on Siegenthaler’s service, Selectman Mike Rosenberg said, “Mark’s lengthy service in elective office is by itself commendable. But especially remarkable is his ability not only to stay aware of changing priorities and trends but to actually set many of them. Any time Mark had something to say at a meeting or even casually, I knew I needed to pay attention because his comments and positions were always grounded in careful analysis, responsible leadership, and wisdom.”
Caroline Fedele, the newest member of the board until Pierce’s election, said Mark’s experience was helpful to her as a new Selectman, “I feel so thankful to have been elected to the Selectmen when I did and have had the pleasure and honor to work alongside Mark. He was the perfect combination of historic knowledge and perspective but thoughtful and open to each and every forward-thinking new item put in front of us.”
Rosenberg called Mark “a great role model for parents who want to get involved with town government and balance that service with family responsibilities.”
“Mark has been an amazing Selectman – thoughtful, even-tempered, and knowledgeable about government at all levels. He has terrific recall and, over the years, often brought his past experience to bear on new but similar situations,” recalled Cathy Cordes, former Selectman and now Town Moderator. “I add my voice to all the other voices singing his praises and thanking Mark for his remarkable service on behalf of the citizens of Bedford.”
His long experience is also valued by Selectman Bill Moonan who said, “Mark has been the steady man at the helm for the Selectmen. Having served for 21 years, he has an institutional memory that, I believe, will be sorely missed. In 21 years he has seen just about every situation with which a Selectman has to deal. As a result, he helps focus the discussion on the issues that are important and keeps the rest of us from spending time and energy on tangents that are unimportant at best.”
Cordes said, “He was a great colleague. I learned a lot from Mark during my 12 years as a Selectman.
Selectman Margot Fleischman said, “Saying goodbye to a valued colleague is never easy, but even more so because Mark Siegenthaler has been a constant, level-headed presence through all the years I’ve served on town committees and boards. He has also been a great friend – whether we agreed or disagreed, we always had a good time.”
Moonan spoke for many when he said, “We owe Mark a very large THANK YOU for his years of service. Fleischman agreed and said, “I feel so very lucky to have worked with someone with such intelligence, integrity and common sense, and I’m going to miss him very much!”