I used to think I was a good writer, especially after our beloved librarian Mary Statt told me I would be a writer when she was playing the part of a fortune teller at a town event. But being a lawyer has corrupted my writing style. We lawyers use legal jargon too often and are so focused on accurately reporting events or case precedents, that we are afraid to be creative or succinct.
This month, I hope to be concise and perhaps a bit creative as I’m going to go off topic and write about a non-legal issue. I want to talk about Bo Strong. I was so sorry to read of his recent death, but also happy to know what a long and productive life he had.
I was first introduced to Bo when I began practicing law with my father, who, as New Boston Town Counsel, wanted to have me do some of the town’s work. Bo was then, and for many years, a selectman. We had to take our assignments from and report to him, and the other selectmen. Bo was always so kind and supportive of my involvement in the town’s legal affairs.
We had a couple of high profile cases. I won’t name names out of respect for parties who are still involved in New Boston activities, but we were successful, even to the point of winning an award of attorneys’ fees in one. What I remember most is that our selectmen had to be witnesses at various times during these litigations, and I was always so proud to hear them testify, especially Bo. He—and all the selectmen—had such integrity, decency, and common sense. These qualities are too often lacking in parties or witnesses, and judges and juries are quick to discount their testimony when that is the case.
I never discussed politics with Bo. He was probably a different party than I, but that was irrelevant. He cared deeply about our town, and regardless of whether it might be considered a “Democrat” or “Republican” position, he supported New Boston’s position.
The two major cases we had involved town restrictions on individual property rights, for the benefit of the town as a whole. The courts agreed with us that the town was not violating anyone’s Constitutional rights in imposing these restrictions. But in one of the cases, the losing party, instead of holding a grudge against the town, became a valuable participant in New Boston governance.
In these days of political dysfunction, the way the town operated under Bo’s guidance is a valuable lesson in how politics ought to function. Anyone who volunteers to help New Boston and our school run more smoothly is making a great sacrifice of time they could otherwise spend with their family or an income-producing activity, and they deserve our respect and thanks.
I hope Bo’s spirit and example will continue to inspire New Boston officials and citizens, and these recent instances of incivility that we have all become too familiar with will not continue. And, despite the fact that I earn my living from lawsuits, I am glad that, unlike some other towns, New Boston under the governance of people like Bo Strong has mostly avoided lawsuits. The law is a powerful tool, but should not be needed to resolve most disagreements.