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Cele's 2002 Columns

Getting ready to leave the legislature, I wrote about eight great years. Then there was the legislation to prevent discrimination against fat and short people. And, maybe my favorite toward the end of the year, "Constituents to Remember and Forget."  My final column of the year and of my political career, "It's Time to Say Goodbye," sort of sums it all up.

It's Time to Say Goodbye

It's Time to Say Goodbye

Goodbye. What else can I say?

Goodbye.

And thank you.

Next Wednesday morning, New Year's Day, I'll still be your State Representative. When I go to bed Wednesday night, I won't be.

I really don't think I like the word "retirement." So, let's just say that I'm retiring from public life.

It's time for me to step down as your State Representative after four terms, eight years. Eight years that I've enjoyed. 

I never expected my career to turn to politics, after more than three decades in the media. It did, however, and I am the richer for it. Not in a monetary way, I hasten to add, but richer for having many wonderful experiences.

But, for now, I am indeed leaving public service and public life. It's time, after eight years in office, to let someone else handle the job.

I'm rather, sort of, maybe looking forward to being just an everyday sort of person, as opposed to being an elected official. 

After all, I am retiring voluntarily. It's something I've chosen to do. So, I am happy.

But, at the same time, I'm sad, because it's been an honor to work for my constituents, and the job has given me experiences, allowed me to meet people, that I otherwise might have missed.

From dancing at gubernatorial inaugurations and hiking through snowy forests to replace radio collars on hibernating bears to filing legislation and helping people solve the problems they have with state government, I've enjoyed it all.

Let me offer a few thank yous.

Thank you to the people of Montgomery and Westfield. Thank you for letting me be your State Representative. And for sending me to Beacon Hill-three of the four times without opposition!

I have to thank my aides - Tim Cheever, Carla Moran and John Carlstrom. Without you three, I couldn't have done it all.

And, thank you, of course, to the Speaker of the House, without whom I would have accomplished little.

Thank you to everyone in the clerk's office…the pages…our court officers. 

Thank you to my colleagues, who have taught me more than I would have learned in any classroom. I will miss my friends, on both sides of the aisle. Thank you for your kindnesses, your assistance, and your good humor.

When I was first elected, in 1994, I had never been inside our beautiful State House. I think I had walked by once.

The day after my first election, Representative Mary Rogeness from Longmeadow invited me to go into the State House with her. That day I was in awe of the job and in awe of the building.

I still am in awe today. Every time I enter the State House, I am thrilled to be there. I know that I am a small part of this state's fabulous history. 

Yes, I will miss the building, the job, and all of you. It's been an honor to serve.

Many have asked what are you going to do?

I won't be going on to another government position, or a high paying job, or even another career. I'm retiring from public life.

I plan to spend more time with Curt, my husband of 36 years, and our children, Cathy and Chris, and their spouses, Jonathan and Jen, and our grandson Aidan.

For now…Goodbye! And Happy New Year.

We Wish You a Merry...

We Wish You a Merry...

You always think, or hope, that holidays are going to be special, memorable.

And, then, they all kind of blend into one year, one Christmas. You can't remember if that was 1978 or 1984, or the year that Grandma fell in the garage, or when the St. Bernard ate all the Christmas cookies while you were at church.

But, in the long run, I guess the year really doesn't matter. You can always check the back of the photographs, hoping that you dated them, if it's really important. And if you didn't, you can always say, well, "Cathy looks about 4", or "Chris was just a baby." Or even, "isn't that the wallpaper from Pleasantville?"

I told you about the year the St. Bernard ate all the turkey drippings and belched about the time the static electricity hit her, causing the gas that had built up inside to explode, burning off her eye lashes, and whiskers. We remembered that holiday, if not the year. So did Brandy, if dogs have memories.

Christmas trees sort of all run together, too, after a while. The same decorations, collected year after year. The tree with the birds nest in it. The tree with long needles. The tree that lost all the needles before Christmas. The year it fell off the top of the Jeep in front of Daly Chevrolet, if you remember where Daly Chevrolet was.

The years when we ran fish wire from the top of the Christmas tree to the ceiling, so the cats wouldn't knock the tree down when they climbed it. The year we didn't wire it, and the tree fell, crashing across the glass coffee table.

There was the 20-foot Christmas tree--the one we removed with a chain saw. The artificial tree. The tree with white flocking (does anyone flock anymore?).

Christmas cards, saved until the next year, in hope that you'd drop someone a letter in reply. The card from someone that nobody in the family could remember or recognize.

Presents of course. Tonka trucks and bicycles. Betsy Wetsy's and Dressy Bessy's, depending on the generation. 

The Christmas Day flight to Grandma's, in Florida. Cancelled when the chickenpox appeared Christmas morning.

Snowy Christmas Eve walks to church, cookies and milk for the reindeer, another verse of Silent Night. Santa Lucia and the Baby Jesus.

Like you, our family will be making some new memories this year. I know it will be special, a Christmas we'll remember forever. Just like your Christmas.

Did I tell you that all animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve. If, and only if, there aren't any people around to hear them?

It's true. I learned it, well I think it was about 1945, and....

Merry Christmas!

Constituents to Remember, and Forget

Constituents to Remember, and Forget

Some of the constituents I've worked with are quite memorable. Not all of them in a positive way.

There were some battles that perhaps I shouldn't have fought. But, for some reason, I often fail to just shut up when others think I should. Especially if I know I'm right. People from the Midwest have a reputation of being outspoken, and perhaps my Iowa upbringing shows at times.

That was the case when the Catholic Diocese wanted the legislature to order an HMO to do business with Mercy Hospital. I maintained that if HMO coverage was mandated, it wouldn't be an HMO and that we shouldn't be interfering with a private business already regulated by the state. I had a few other arguments as well, something about separation of church and state, which only got the Bishop angry enough to attack me in the Catholic Observer.

Sorry, Bishop, but I'd do it again. And I'll put you on my list of memorable people.

Other memorable people?

The guy who claimed that there wouldn't be any homeless people in Westfield except for the fact that I got funding for the homeless shelter. He also blamed the homeless for the trash blowing around Wal-Mart. Go figure.

I told him that he didn't have to like the shelter, the clients, or me, but to please consider what things would be like without any options for people who have so few options and who are probably mentally incompetent in addition to having alcohol or drug addictions.

I get blamed for a lot of things, including all of the refugees in Westfield. Look, I didn't bring them here. They're here under Federal regulations and under the auspices of Lutheran Social Services. It's just my job to be sure they get an education, medical care, and other services the Feds and state mandate.

Others? There was a frequent caller who threatened me, claiming to know where I lived, and was, according to a contact in law enforcement, quite dangerous. (Haven't these people ever heard of caller id?)

The gentleman who wanted a House of Representatives citation for his dead parents. At the very least, he'd settle for a letter or commendation to them.

There's the man who contacts me frequently, usually by phone, sometimes in writing. I still can't figure out why he contacts me. He claims to have had a falling out with officials in Westfield, and seems to be hiding out either in Connecticut or around Worcester.

He is one of our formerly homeless residents and a street poet. He claims that fishmonger Carl Cline told him that half of 23 is 12, so he wrote a poem about that and dedicated it to then-Governor Paul Cellucci.

When I was first elected a frequent-caller repeatedly demanded that I do something that I had no possible way of doing and wouldn't have done even if I could have. I was patient through many calls. But he finally pushed me over the edge and I said, no, probably yelled, "Don't call me again."

"Why not?" he asked.

And I, totally unlady-like, and certainly unrepresentative-like, explained "Because you p*** me off." It worked. (For that, I apologize.)

I also admit to telling another frequent caller that he was "obnoxious." He was. No matter what I tried to do, it wasn't enough for this former felon. He's since taken to contacting local papers and the Senator. Thank goodness.

Most frustrating? Peter, who didn't appreciate my aircraft tax bill and tried to thwart this legislation every step of the way, going so far as to attack me in The Boston Globe. His basic beef, I believe, was the cutting of trees around an airport. But, as so many do, they obfuscate the real issue with irrelevancy.

The religious right. Bible Thumping Bill accused me of supporting "the evil of contraception" when I voted in favor of insurance coverage for contraceptives for women who want it. He claimed I was not a Christian, voted only the party line, and had some hidden agenda that involved destroying this country's moral integrity.

Dear Bill, I replied, in part, that I do NOT always vote the party line and certainly have no agenda. Furthermore, I said, I am a Christian, but my church (Episcopal) has not taken an anti-birth control stance. So your religion may not be mine and my district is made up of many faiths. Furthermore, I told him, I do not see contraception as "evil."

"I am sure that I will never make the pro-life people happy," I continued. "And I will never be able to respect your warped sense of evil. But the people of my district have elected me four times despite my pro-choice stance."

Was I too hard on the guy?

One more memorable constituent, the one who objected to a phrase in one of my columns here. I said, somewhere in the 750 or so words, that we can't legislate morality. Which, we can't. The intent of the column was to say that despite laws to the contrary, people are out in the world raping, robbing, murdering and stealing.

He asked, "How can you protect immorality and say that you cannot legislate morality?" But, he also said, "'Fiscally conservative and morally liberal' isn't going to work at the polls the next time around…I'm going to vote Democrat and I hope you too can pull out of your depression and see that the people who just don't care or, like yourself, seem helpless, need to be reached by reps who send a message of hope and change."

Bottom line, he figured that I would go ahead and pass laws that protct amoral or immoral decisions and actions. I don't think so, but he has the right to say it. Or, write it.

Now, as I'm about to leave office, I will say that our policy is to be polite and helpful to all people.

But sometimes we just can't help ourselves.


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