That’s not good. Town government essentially is a service business. Townspeople, the government’s customers, expect to find town offices open for business during normal hours. When they are not, people have good reason to be upset.
Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores responded with a letter of her own this week (see this page). In it, Katsakiores notes that the recognition luncheon is the only opportunity for town employees to come together. They did so partly on their own lunch hours and partly on town time.
Katsakiores notes that the luncheon has been held for 15 years and for six of those years, Fairbanks was a town councilor. Surely, there was nothing here of which Fairbanks was unaware.
Katsakiores said that advance notice of the Municipal Center closing was posted on Derry Community Television, on the town’s website, on the Municipal Center’s door, in local newspapers and announced at Town Council meetings. She apologized to those citizens who were unaware and inconvenienced.
“Ms. Fairbanks’ letter is a blatant display of total disregard for town employees,” Katsakiores wrote. “She places so little value on our people that she would prohibit town management from buying lunch and meeting with its employees once per year. That is grossly unreasonable.”
Katsakiores is right when she criticizes Fairbanks for now attacking a practice she did nothing effective to end while she was a town councilor. But Fairbanks is correct on the broader issue.
This isn’t about whether Derry should recognize its employees for long service and a job well done. Of course the town should do so. The question is when such a tribute should be held.
Imagine Wal-Mart, CVS pharmacy, a restaurant or any other private business honoring its employees by closing its doors in the middle of the day and locking its customers out. It would never happen. Nor should it happen in town government.
The proper time for such honors is after regular business hours, after customers have been served and their needs met. This should not be paid time, nor should attendance be mandatory. If town employees truly cared about the recognition of their peers, they would attend.
This really isn’t that hard of a concept to grasp if town leaders see themselves as servants of the townspeople, and not the other way around.