By Sara Goddard, Rye City Councilmember
Two days before our July City Council meeting, my fellow Councilmember, Pam Tarlow, called me to deliver some unexpected news. She was moving from Rye and therefore, stepping down from the City Council. She’d informed the City Manager and Corporation Counsel sometime prior but planned to say her farewell at the July meeting.
While we’d differed occasionally on the issues (passionately so, at times!), I know Pam to be a person of integrity and honesty. She treated her position as a representative of Rye seriously — staunchly defending policies and issues that she felt were for the betterment of her community and its people.
Pam should have been able to attend the July meeting to bid the Council, City staff, and her constituents farewell and thank everyone for the opportunity to serve Rye.
It can be easy to forget that the Rye Councilmember and Mayoral positions are part-time volunteer roles, where each one of us possesses an equal vote and individually answers to a collective “boss” — the voting Rye public. The bulk of City operations rests in the capable hands of a paid professional staff overseen by a City Manager.
The joy I’ve had in serving as a Councilmember is precisely because it’s a volunteer position. We reflect and amplify a community that is filled with committed people who are devoted to civic volunteerism. Our County Executive, George Latimer, pointed out to me once that Rye is unique in that many of the organizations and institutions typically funded with taxpayer dollars are supported here by an incredibly active volunteer base. In addition, City boards and commissions are populated by smart, dedicated, citizen volunteers.
I’d never thought of it that way but it’s fitting of a Rye culture that embodies active civic engagement. Think of all the times you’ve volunteered your free time. Add to that the number of times you’ve been called upon to support a homegrown Rye cause: installing sidewalks on Forest Avenue, creating a food scrap recycling program, lending your support to students who want to raise a Pride flag, mobilizing countless beach and brook cleanups. All these initiatives were germinated by Rye neighbors and friends who called on you to take part.
Serving as a Rye Councilmember or Mayor is another volunteer position. That’s why when one of us who has volunteered her time wants to come to City Hall and spend a few minutes to say goodbye she shouldn’t be treated like a rogue employee who has been fired.
The minutiae – threats, timelines, alleged procedural lapses – are there to be parsed through and fought over by those who choose to do so. But the important points are agreed upon: crimes were not committed, Rye residents were not put in jeopardy, the City government and its operations were not compromised, and Pam intended to announce her departure from the Council at last week’s Council meeting.
I can safely say that no one is claiming nefarious intent or illegal action on the part of Pam Tarlow. I will not guess at her reason for choosing to inform Councilmembers later than City staff. Perhaps feelings are hurt by this decision, but it was her right to do so and doesn’t undermine her obligation to represent her constituents or undermine her conduct as Councilmember.
What I do know is that no announcement of her departure was made to the public, she was prevented from attending the meeting at City Hall and no opportunity was given on the agenda for Councilmembers and staff to thank her for her service.
All this effort to prevent a volunteer from simply saying goodbye and thank you … It’s baffling, it’s not right, and, well, it’s just not neighborly.
I’d personally like to say thank you to Councilmember Tarlow for her service to Rye and wish her well in her future endeavors.