Firefighter fills long vacant Windham seat

Members of the Windham Town Council vote unanimoulsy to appoint Brett Jones as the newest member of the Council, filling the seat left vacant after Councilor Tommy Gleason's passing lasy May. 

WINDHAM – All seven seats on the Windham Town Council are full for the first time in nearly a year after six members voted to fill the seat that had been vacant since the untimely death of Councilor Tommy Gleason last May.

Brett Jones, a Windham resident and full-time member of the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department, was sworn-in Wednesday, Feb. 15, after the council voted unanimously Tuesday night to appoint him.

Jones will serve until the next municipal election in November 2017.

Jones was unable to attend the meeting, but said in an interview Wednesday that he is ready to get to work on behalf of the town.

“I’m honored that I was selected,” said Jones, “and hoping to serve the town in a different capacity than I have as a member of the Fire and Rescue Department.”

Jones, who lives on Tavern Hill Road with his wife and 4-year-old daughter, is a captain with the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department. He has been a call member of the Windham Fire and Rescue Department, but must leave that role now that he is a member of the Town Council.

He said he recognizes his new position involved “kind of an unusual process” because he was appointed rather than elected, but hopes to give more Windham residents the chance to get to know him quickly. Jones also said he brings experience as a long-time municipal employee, and looks to “shed some light on that side of it.”

Councilor Timothy Nangle told his colleagues that when he spoke with Jones on the phone recently about joining the council, Jones was initially concerned about the time commitment involved because of his work schedule. However, both Nangle and Jones emerged from the conversation reassured.

“His biggest concern is that he wants to do a good job, and I applaud him for that,” said Nangle of Jones.

In an interview ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Town Council Chairman Dennis Welch said that having a full slate of councilors is important, even if it hadn’t been particularly difficult for the council to function recently with six members. He also emphasized how much Gleason is missed.

“He was a real good friend of mine, and a mentor,” Welch said of Gleason. “A real great guy, who loved the town.”

Thomas “Tommy” Gleason, 67, was honored and mourned by the town last year after dying of a heart attack May 11 while traveling in New Jersey. Known for his dedication to Windham, Gleason’s memorial service included a procession led by police, fire and rescue services. Bagpipes played as the procession ended at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on Route 302.

Gleason’s wife, Nancy, said in an interview that her husband would be happy that his seat is finally filled.

“He loved the town, and he would have wanted (the seat) to be filled,” she said.

Following Gleason’s death, the council hoped to have voters fill his at-large seat in the November 2016 election rather than appoint someone. However, no candidates emerged for the position. The council then decided to appoint a new councilor, as allowed by the Town Charter, and put out a call for applications.

Eight people originally applied for the vacant seat and four withdrew their applications for various reasons. Jones was finally chosen from the remaining four candidates after an executive session held Feb. 2, when candidates were interviewed.

In an interview ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Councilor Donna Chapman said she had concerns when no one ran for Gleason’s vacant seat in 2016.

“What concerns me is the lack of people willing to run for local government, and I hope that’s not a trend,” Chapman said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Chapman also urged other members of the council to consider making the review process more transparent in the future, should the council have to appoint a new member in the future.

“So, hopefully this will never happen again, but if it does happen again and we have to fill a vacancy, we have a better process and it’s a little more transparent,” Chapman said during the meeting.

The Windham Town Council has seven seats. The Council can operate without a full seven members, but at least four votes are always needed for a matter to be approved. The Council was originally scheduled to vote on Jones’ appointment on Feb. 7, but was forced to reschedule the appointment twice due to bad weather.

Jones was sworn in at Windham Town Hall.  He said it is too early to speculate whether he will run for re-election.

“I have no idea, we’ll see how the next few months go,” Jones said with a laugh.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 123, or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker

Members of the Windham Town Council vote unanimoulsy to appoint Brett Jones as the newest member of the Council, filling the seat left vacant after Councilor Tommy Gleason’s passing lasy May.