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Mackenzie: “I need to focus on Saturday”

May 28, 2012

After an eventful week in which she was attacked by another candidate at a public forum and then slammed a few days later in a Walpole Times editorial, Walpole Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie said this weekend she remains unfazed and is concentrating on winning re-election on Saturday.

In a 180 exclusive interview, Mackenzie spoke openly, for the most part, about events that transpired this past week that have put her in the spotlight just days away from when she is seeking a second term on the town’s top board.

On Monday evening, Mackenzie and the four other actively-campaigning candidates for Selectmen – incumbent Chris Timson, Christopher Donovan, Rob Luce, and Bill Hamilton – participated in a forum sponsored by the Westwood-Walpole League of Women Voters at Old Post Road School. With Mackenzie on the other side of the stage, Luce singled her out numerous times even when questions were about other topics, repeatedly suggesting that nepotism was involved in the promotion of Mackenzie’s husband to police sergeant last year and accusing her of talking down to seniors during Selectmen’s meetings.

It was an explosive candidates’ forum, the likes of which have not been seen in many years in Walpole. While candidates for town office usually stick to talking about their own agendas and rarely lambast specific others in the race, Luce’s repeated attacks toward Mackenzie – having never even been asked about her at any point – were probably the most interesting part of the evening.

Mackenzie said she wasn’t amused. “I thought he was a distraction,” she said.

Mackenzie said she had never met or had conversations with Luce before the L.W.V. Forum. “I had never even seen him before Walpole Day,” she said.

She did not publicly respond to any of Luce’s charges during the forum, but said she had a “private conversation” with Luce after the event. She didn’t divulge what was said during that discussion.

Luce claimed to reporters afterward that during their private exchange, she called him a “f —- ing piece of s — t.” Luce apparently responded by saying “I’m glad you talk to me like you talk to the seniors, sweetheart.” Mackenzie said she didn’t know what he said because he “was yelling something across the room,” but witnesses confirmed to 180 that Luce used the word “sweetheart” and that he was shouting to her.

“His behavior speaks for itself,” Mackenzie said.

On Thursday, The Walpole Times printed a scathing editorial blasting her refusal to interview with their paper this year for a candidate’s profile. Noting that “Mackenzie is the only candidate who has refused to be interviewed” during the last four years that the paper has compiled candidate profiles before town elections, the editorial accused Mackenzie of holding a “yearlong vendetta” against the paper for what she perceived to be unfair press coverage of her in the past.

The editorial marked the latest chapter in an ongoing saga involving Mackenzie and her husband, Chris Mackenzie, a Walpole police officer.

In 2010, Mackenzie came under fire when she initially refused to abstain from voting on the hiring of a new Deputy Police Chief, saying the State Ethics Commission had informed her she would not be in violation of any law. Amid heavy criticism from the public and from fellow Selectman Chris Timson, she eventually backed down and ultimately abstained on the vote. Last year, the Board promoted Mackenzie’s husband to police sergeant from the rank of patrolman, per the recommendation of Police Chief Richard Stillman. Mackenzie abstained on that vote as well.

Times reporter Keith Ferguson published an article about the promotion of Mackenzie and that of another officer to lieutenant, and made mention of the Mackenzie familial relationship and Timson’s past criticism of her in the beginning of the article. Mackenzie said she took issue with the way the issue was presented.

During the Deputy Chief hiring process and through the past several years she has been on the Board, Mackenzie said she has been in constant communication with the State Ethics Commission over how the relationship to her husband could potentially affect her work on the Board. “I did everything they said,” Mackenzie said. “They would’ve opened a file on me (if I was doing anything wrong),” she said.

Mackenzie said she believes the Times employs a double standard, as former Selectmen Hamilton and David Sullivan, during their recent campaigns for the Board, did not appear to get the same type of press coverage she got over their relationships with the Walpole Police Department. Sullivan is a former Walpole cop who has a daughter on the police force. He served on the Board between 2007 and 2010, when his daughter was a police officer. Hamilton is a former Walpole police officer who now collects a pension for his service that has received some scrutiny.

“The last few times that The Walpole Times has covered me, they’ve brought up non-issues,” Mackenzie said. “To keep pretending it is an issue, or was an issue, is absurd,” she said, of the questions of conflict of interest around her husband.

Mackenzie called last week’s editorial “vindictive.”

According to Mackenzie, she was at first willing to participate in an interview with the Times but wasn’t aware at first that both Ferguson (now editor) and reporter Veronica Hamlett would be interviewing her at the same time. When she found out Ferguson was going to be involved and not Hamlett alone, she backed out.

Mackenzie said she has few regrets about canceling. “It’s my right (not to do an interview),” she said.

“I just wish the editor would realize that these are real lives. My husband is a real person that works hard, that has an excellent record,” she said.

With the town election rapidly approaching, Mackenzie said she is moving on from last week, and is prepared to win re-election. “I need to focus on Saturday,” she said.

On other issues unrelated to last week’s controversies, Mackenzie fiercely defended the proposed $3 million override on the election ballot.

Calling herself a conservative who trusts local government with tax dollars more than the state and federal governments, Mackenzie said Proposition 2.5 isn’t designed to be a steadfast limit on government spending or taxation but is instead designed to allow the community to decide how much they want in government services.

“I think (Proposition) 2.5 is a wonderful thing, and we need to decide when to override it,” she said.

Mackenzie is in favor of handing out pay raises to town employees even during the current fiscal crisis, noting that during good economic times, workers in the private sector often get lavish raises and bonuses while employees in the public sector still get small raises. She does, however, hope for some changes in the town’s collective bargaining agreements in the future.

“I think as our society evolves, our unions need to evolve a little also,” she said. “I think the unions should move toward a merit-based (pay raise) system,” she said.

She heaped praise on town officials, including school leaders, for helping to steer the town through dire fiscal straits. “That School Committee is unbelievable,” she said.

Defending the town’s purchases of a new fire department take-home car, dump truck, police car, and DPW pickup truck in this year’s Capital Budget, Mackenzie said the town generally purchases new vehicles when the trade-in value of the old one is still relatively high.

“I think there’s some conspiracy somewhere with something, but Town Hall is pretty bare,” she said, in response to people who have said there is widespread waste and inefficiency in the town budget. “We’re doing more for less,” she said.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert Luce jr permalink
    May 29, 2012 7:18 AM

    Nancy repeat the threat lets all get a laugh,the only distracting is you on the board of selectman you need go,What funny is get all her benerfits from union bargening what is part the health care cost everybody do really think a nurse worth 50 +- anhour she dont cate about walpole employee because hubby gets his insurance through the hospital.nancy tell the trueth and Save the Town of Walpole from cleaning up your any more of your mess. Robert G Luce

  2. Robert Luce jr permalink
    May 29, 2012 7:34 AM

    i woudnt trustbyou with ten cents you no consevertive you should up the word spending money for no good reason is not being consevertive while on the beord you did not vote the will of the people REMBER WE KNOW WHAT YOU NEED YOU DONT KNOW WHAT YOU NEED THAT WAS NACY TELLING THE SENIORS IN TOWN THAT SHE KNOWS WHAT THEY SORRY NANCY YOU DONT KNOW WHAT SENIOR NEEDS

  3. Robert G Luce permalink
    May 29, 2012 12:48 PM

    sgt nancy Mackenzie is doing with more but were to bare bones lol

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