To the Editor:
Friends from throughout the region came together September 20 to pay tribute to Mark Lyon, Washington’s retiring First Selectman at Washington Town Hall in Bryan Park.
A 12 year veteran of the selectman’s office, Lyon was first elected in 2007 by a slim nine votes. He built that win into a life of public service first, in 2003, as fire chief and then, in 2007, as First Selectman.
The crowd, which totaled over 200 well-wishers, shared food from Washington Food Market, The Pantry, GW Tavern, The White Horse along with stories, laughs and testimonials from many including Senator Eric Berthel, Henry Martin, James Brinton, Mark Showalter.
Lyon’s sense of service was brought up almost as much as his handlebar mustache and the picture of John Wayne that hung on his office wall. Asked what his connection to Wayne, he answered directly, “I thought he was a solid US citizen. I thought if I can be as true to myself as he is to himself, then I will be doing all right. I also thought I’m going to do the best I can and let the chips fall where they may. I think he personifies that, too. He did the best he could and let the chips fall where they may.”
Reflecting on his dozen years in office, Lyon offered up some insight to the next First Selectman. “You have to understand that you’re really the head of the complaint department. People come to you with issues that don’t always get resolved but they must always get them explained. I think that’s important. I also think that another big part of this job is helping them understand what has happened to them. A lot of people come in with an issue with the tax collector, the assessor, the land use people or whatever and I don’t judge. I say, ‘Well, let me check into it and I’ll get back to you.’ I think that is an important thing to do.”
And what about the next generation’s interest in serving a community as special as Washington? Lyon is encouraged and already sees it in motion. “We’re happy we’ve been able to bring younger people on commissions and committees here in Town Hall. We had a much different staff when I first took office and most of those positions have been filled with younger people. That’s very positive. My grandson Justin and my son Dave have both shown interest in serving and we’ve always encouraged younger people to get involved”.
Mark Lyon is a man who likes “taking care of the business of town,” someone who was born to run municipalities. He delights in seeing things run smoothly — the better they run, the more satisfying they become. And his legacy?
“I’m most proud of keeping our infrastructure strong and maintaining our roads. And as a community I was proud to see how we recovered when the Town Garage burned down. We handled the explosion at Town Hall better because of what we learned at the town garage.”
A proud and practical legacy.