Selectman Paul Healey is closing in on 60 years living in Hingham. Paul grew up in town, attended school here and met his wife, Esther Cundari, at Hingham High School. Paul and Esther raised their five children in Hingham and now have six grandchildren, one of who just arrived on Easter Sunday morning. Paul has served as a Hingham Policeman, a 19-year member of the Planning Board and most recently, a member of the Hingham Board of Selectmen.
Hingham, Meet Selectman Paul Healey.
What is your favorite memory from your time in Hingham?
One of my most enduring memories is the time I spent working at Charlie Cushing’s Mobil station in Hingham Centre. I saw firsthand the great community culture and history of the town and it has always stayed with me as I worked as a policeman, planner, and selectman.
How long have you served in town government and what prompted you to run for office?
While I was in high school I got a part-time job working at the Hingham Dump and later in the 1970’s went on to serve as a Hingham Policeman for 11 years, working as a sergeant on the midnight shift. I was in Suffolk Law School at night at the time and Esther took care of our three daughters. After graduation, I clerked at the Appeals Court and then went into private practice. During that time, I saw the development of the Alexandria Way subdivision and it motivated me to run for a position on the Hingham Planning Board where I served for 19 years before being elected as a selectman where I have served for six years.
What are some of the highlights of your career in Hingham town government?
I have enjoyed accomplishing a number of things serving the town in different capacities. As a police officer I took a great deal of pride in working hard to serve and protect the community while working the 12 to 8 shift. Mike Peraino, Jim Taylor, Brian Aiguier, and Rick Amonte worked with me and we had a close and strong bond out on the street.
While serving on the Planning Board, I struggled with Baker Hill and it still goes on today. Without question however a great accomplishment was the Hingham Shipyard project and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. It took over 10 years. I served with Susan Murphy, Judy Sneath, Tod McGrath, John Riley, Peter Bickford, Sarah Corey, Bill Ramsey, and Gary Tondorf-Dick and have to say it was a pleasure working on the projects before us. To name a few -- Derby Street Shops, Brandon Woods, Baker Hill, Bone & Muscle, Langley Road, Blue Cross, Serono, Ridgewood Crossing, Heather Lane, Black Rock, Boston Golf, and Erickson to name a few. Perhaps the most memorable project was the stand that the Planning Board took on Erikson now known as Linden Ponds. We staked out a legal position that although unsuccessful, ultimately proved to be the correct one and alerted the community to the realities of comprehensive permits also known as 40B development.
As a selectman, I saw the town in a bigger cross-section and I am pleased to have served with Mary Power and Karen Johnson, two superb public servants. Both of these residents are special, and our community is fortunate to have them. The acquisition of the water company was without a doubt the biggest issue before the town in my lifetime and the dedicated efforts of so many good people committed to our town’s best interest was heartening and most gratifying. I would likewise want to thank my colleague Mary Power for her tireless efforts on facilitating the town reaching the 10 percent threshold for affordable housing here in Hingham. That took courage and commitment, both of which she has in abundant supply. We entered into LIP’s (Local Initiative Program) with the developers in the event the projects received Zoning Board of Appeals approval and received seven figure mitigation payments on both projects. As it turned out, the projects were approved and we have now exceeded our 10 percent threshold.
I am pleased with the town adopting the Historic Preservation Awards Program to facilitate and enhance the historic mission here in Hingham. I see this as a vehicle to showcase our town’s great history in a positive way and look forward to seeing the selectees in the future.
I am especially happy with the Flag For Soldiers Campaign and the able assistance of Lisa Potts of our Department of Veterans' Services our Historical Commission Administrator, Andrea Young. Each service member and their family get a town flag with a certificate of appreciation so that they know that the town is with them in whatever duty their nation requires of them. I hope Hingham carries this tradition on for future residents who step forward to serve their nation.
I am also glad to have had the privilege and honor of accepting the 2015 Freedom Award at the Pentagon in August 2015. The specialness of our magnificent community was never so evident as that day. Veterans' Services Officer Senior Chief Keith Jermyn, who had recently returned from his deployment to Djibouti, was with us as well as Sergeant John Marquardt, and it is a memory I will always hold close to me.
A concern I had when I became a selectman was for our permitting boards to have a substantive understanding of the issues in the Derby Street Corridor with respect to permitting. We formed a study group in that regard and I am appreciative of Judy Sneath for her hard work chairing the South Hingham Study Group and the report we authored. Senior Planner Emily Wentworth’s very capable assistance also made this possible. Additionally Judy’s work on the Route 3A Task Force with the novel "road diet" approach to test a design proposal subsequently submitted to Mass. Department of Transportation was a real positive contribution to Hingham.
During my tenure as a selectman, we appointed not one but two fire chiefs (Robert Olsson and Steve Murphy), a police chief (Glenn Olsson), and a town administrator (Tom Mayo). Former Town Administrator Ted Alexiades provided me with experience and wisdom in dark times. Our town government is fortunate to have men and women who are dedicated and hard-working professionals who care about the community. I consider them to be partners in our efforts to preserve this beautiful place we call home. We are truly lucky.
What made you decide not to run for Selectman again?
While I have a continuing desire to serve the community as witnessed in the ongoing commitments shown by Former Selectmen Bruce Rabuffo, Kathy Reardon, and Laura Burns, I felt that two terms was an appropriate amount of time for me to serve as a selectman. The work done right is demanding and time-consuming. I think it adds value to have working selectmen sitting on the board, and the addition of Joe Fisher will compliment the formidable skill sets shown by Mary and Karen as they shepherd the town through the transition of ownership of the water company by Aquarion to the Town of Hingham. In terms of advice for running for public office, people need to be true to themselves and the rest will fall into place. I have enjoyed serving with a lot of different people here in town, and the only criteria I look to is whether the person I serve with is truly committed to the best interests of the town. As I hope the town has seen during the period where the acquisition of the water company was occurring, Mary, Karen, and I were united in that singular purpose and that made this demanding effort a most satisfying one.
What/who has been your biggest inspiration in your life so far?
I would say that my mother Jean Healey and my wife Esther have always had an out-sized role in that regard. They are two people committed to the underdog and have always supported me, whether it be in the role of advisor, counsel, or just a patient ear. I would also want to recognize my friend and town counsel Susan Murphy for her measured advice and assistance during my time here in local government. Anyone sitting in the seat of a selectman needs someone who tells them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. All three of these women have done that.
If you could pass along one message to your 21-year-old self, what would it be?
In terms of walking back in time, my grandfather worked for James Michael Curley and the title of his autobiography “I’d Do It Again” pretty much sums it up.
When presented with two options, when did you make a choice that totally changed the course of your life?
It was probably as a young sergeant finishing up law school. I was in court one day after working the 12 to 8 shift. A lawyer I respected and admired said to me that I had to decide what I wanted to be. He said, "You can be a good policeman or a good lawyer but you can't be both.” I made a choice that required me to leave a career I loved and start all over again in the legal profession. It worked out, and my service to the town has allowed me to keep in touch with my old partners, including those who went on to became chief.
What is the most surprising thing that ever happened to you?
That was me saying yes to my cousin Matt Brennan’s invitation to climb Mt. Rainier with him. It was only after I said yes that I looked at where it was and what it involved (note to file away -- do not do that). While I have summated it a couple of times, I still silently give thanks for having come back relatively intact. When I look into the sky now and see the clouds above, I am reminded that I stood on earth 10,000 feet above those clouds at one point in my life. My cousin is now on the Khumbo Icefall in Nepal on his way to summit Everest and I wish him Godspeed.
What do you most look forward to in your future?
My wife Esther, who is also my best friend, has a long list of jobs for me to complete, and we both look forward to enjoying our grandchildren more and a trip to Virginia in May to see our son. I may travel to Chattanooga and enjoy the magnificent vista of Lookout Mountain once again. I know a lawyer down there. . .
"It has been a genuine honor and privilege to serve Hingham and I consider myself a lucky man for having the opportunity to do so. "
5 thoughts on “Reflecting on a Life of Hingham Service with Paul Healey”
Very nice, Paul! You’ve certainly lived up to your heritage, both the Brennan and Kelley sides. Your grandmother, Marie (Kelley) Brennan was a remarkable woman and someone I admired. And your Mother, Jean, is also someone I admire and like. So kudos to you, Paul and to Esther too…..
Terrific Q&A, Hingham Anchor! Helps us all get to know the man eho’s Been in the background—as well as the foreground—for so many decades in our town!
Congratulations, Paul. What a nice article. The town has been fortunate to have your service. Now take care of those “chores” Esther has planned for you!
Paul, thank you for your generous words. Secretary of State (if he still is) “Mike” Pompeo refers to the “commanders intent”..”no eternal allies and no permanent enemies.” For me, this describes you. With love and prayers always yours, mom