Needham Selectman James Healy announced yesterday that he will resign from the board in the spring, blaming the latest in a series of incidents where his car’s tires were slashed, among other issues.
In an interview yesterday, Healy said that his new position as an adjunct professor at the College of the Holy Cross and a September promotion at his primary job at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester made it difficult to fulfill his obligations as a selectman.
However, Healy also said that an incident two weeks ago in which all four of his car’s tires were slashed cemented his decision to resign. Healy said that his tires had been slashed twice previously, in May 2007 and December 2008, during an earlier term as a selectman.
No arrests have been made in any of the incidents.
“I concluded that it just wasn’t appropriate for me to continue to put my family in harm’s way,” Healy said. “If there are people out there who want to do this type of intentional and very dangerous conduct, it’s not worth it to serve in public service, which is voluntary. There isn’t a sufficient positive outcome.
“The fact that I’m not able to complete my term is deeply disappointing,” Healy said. “There aren’t many things in my life that I’ve started and not completed. It was an emotional and frustrating decision.”
Needham Police Chief Philip Droney said the recent incident was under investigation, but would not comment further.
The punctures in his tires were not obviously visible, Healy said, and could have endangered his life.
“It was not a situation where I would come outside and notice there was damage. That makes it all the more dangerous. It means you’re then driving on tires that are going to fail.”
Healy has more than two years left in his three-year term. He is expected to resign early this spring in anticipation of the town’s regularly scheduled election in April, avoiding the need for a special election.
Healy’s resignation ends a long municipal government career that began in 1993 and has seen numerous changes in Needham, including the hiring of Needham’s first town manager, the renovation of its historic Town Hall, the construction of a series of schools and town buildings, and the recent approval of a new senior center, a longtime pet project of Healy’s.
Before winning back a seat on the board in April this year, Healy had served as a selectman from 2003. In 2008, he decided to not seek re-election, citing similar concerns about the demands of his job. He had previously served as a Town Meeting and Finance Committee member in Needham.
Healy, who was raised in Needham, is a vocal member of the board widely known for his fiscal conservatism.
“If there’s anything I hope people admire about my service, it’s my willingness to take a stand, not back down, and let people know my opinions so there could be an open and fair debate,” Healy said.
Healy worried that his experience would discourage civic engagement in Needham.
“It doesn’t send the right message to other people who might want to get into public service,” Healy said. “They’re gonna look at me and say, ‘boy, what a headache. Why would I want to do that?’ “
Moe Handel, the board’s chairman, said Healy would be missed.
“Every person I’ve talked to is saddened by what has happened to Jim,” Handel said. “It’s outrageous that this would happen to anybody. You can never justify that kind of action
“It goes to the roots of our democracy. You should be able to take positions however popular or unpopular without feeling physically threatened.”
Healy’s longtime friend, Democratic state Representative Denise Garlick, had warm words for her former Board of Selectmen colleague.
“I think Jim was very strategic and knew how to get a project done,” Garlick said. “Lots of people can have good ideas, but it takes someone with unique ability to get projects done, and that’s what people counted on Jim to do.”
Healy first announced his resignation in a letter to the Needham Times.
Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.