Respectful Leadership or a Backhanded Slap?




Tom Duggan

It’s always cute when a local politician adopts a catchy slogan to help shore up the image of his campaign.

And while most voters rightly dismiss these slogans as meaningless rhetoric, one campaign slogan from this year’s North Andover town election begs to be discussed.

Political signs popping up all over town this week are touting one selectman candidate with the slogan “Respectful Leadership”.

Sounds innocuous enough, right? Who can argue against respectful leadership? Who could argue against a candidate who wants to be respectful? After all, we all want leaders who are respectful and understand that leadership is best accomplished when those who disagree on issues are respectful of each other and the public.

But the slogan “Respectful Leadership” on the campaign signs of Selectman candidate Tom Licciardello isn’t just a catchy little phrase to boost his image. It is a backhanded slap at incumbent Selectman Wendy Wakeman. And not a very respectful one at that.

You see, Licciardello (who is a very nice man) is the hand-picked candidate of the North Andover Democrat Town Committee. He is supported by the pro-tax and spend liberal elements in town who represent the unions, higher taxes and special interests.

Those who are pushing Licciardello’s candidacy (Mark DiSalvo, for example) have a visceral hatred for Wakeman which goes far beyond political differences. It stems from Wakeman’s heavy hand with the gavel at Selectman meetings when DiSalvo, Diane Huster, Susan Haltmaier, Tom Licciardello and the rest of the town malcontents speak out of turn and disrupt important town business with their public grandstanding

They whine and complain during and after meetings that Wakeman isn’t “respectful” of their random outbursts. They are shocked and insulted by the fact that she just doesn’t see them as they see themselves: the educated, elite elder-statesmen who should be consulted on each and every issue before the town.

They even tried to propose a measure before the Board of Selectmen to ban Mrs. Wakeman from appearing as a guest on local talk radio – where she has spoken openly and bluntly about town politics.

Last year, the town malcontents shouted and interrupted two different meetings claiming Wakeman had “no right to speak out publicly as an individual selectman” since she is “part of an elected board.” They even demanded that she publicly apologize for something the talk show host had said. As if Wakeman is now responsible for the opinions of other people.

Have you ever heard of such idiocy?

But wait, it gets better. Tom Licciardello is himself a radio talk show host. Does this mean that DiSalvo, Huster and the other has-beens of town government are going to demand that he give up his show should he win a seat on the Board of Selectmen?

Don’t hold your breath

What they will demand is more back room deals like the one struck at the last Democrat Town Committee meeting. That’s when DiSalvo and his crew realized that the Proposition 2 1/2 Override question on the March ballot will hurt their hand-picked candidates. So they set out to kill the measure and take away the public’s right to speak on the issue.

At a Board of Selectman meeting that was not televised last month, Selectman Mark Caggiano (also a Democrat Town Committee member and Licciardello supporter) made a motion to remove the override question from the ballot, but was stopped by none other than…you guessed it, Wendy Wakeman.

Finance Committee member Paul Stuart (a Diane Huster supporter) made a similar effort to kill the ballot question. That effort was defeated as well.

Mr. Licciardello is a very well-liked and personable fellow. But in politics, you are who you surround yourself with. And the very fact that the man recruited to represent the Democrat Town Committee’s agenda is running on the slogan “Respectful Leadership” is a joke. And a bad one at that.

One thing for sure: If you want someone who will act respectful in public while making backroom deals, someone who will respectfully raise your taxes, respectfully insult their opponents, respectfully support overrides for schools, respectfully carry the water for the Democrat Committee and respectfully drive businesses out of town, then radio personality Tom Licciardello is the “Respectful Leader” for you!