The political upheaval occurring this week in Thurman is deeply unfortunate, and it's not just that the town's public image suffers when some residents delve into mud-slinging, false accusations, back-stabbing and gossip-mongering.
The distressing aspect is the outcome - that three honest, upright, dedicated community servants are leaving their positions - one ousted by the town board, and two top officials abruptly resigning.
Thurman Supervisor Red Pitkin confirmed his resignation this week, after a contentious town board meeting last Tuesday that included angry, accusatory discussion over how a youth recreation director's job position was handled.
This was after a seven-month series of skirmishes between the board and some townspeople over whether the Thurman Emergency Squad, which the town supports, should have prudent financial management, accurate bookkeeping and stop enriching its treasury while burdening taxpayers.
The town government has been withholding their annual payment of $33,000 to the squad pending receipt of a financial statement from the agency detailing their annual expenses and accumulated surplus.
Squad officials countered that their surplus money is needed for upcoming additional expenses so the squad can appropriately provide services the townspeople expect.
Also at issue has been the squad's low response record. During the first three months of 2010, the squad had responded to three emergency calls out of 24 in its service territory - a ratio that improved dramatically soon after it was made public.
Also, there was the issue of the squad's ever-changing financial figures and a lengthy delay on an audit requested by the town board. Then, after an audit was received months late, it seemed incomplete and further information was needed on the present expenses and balance.
The last straw, apparently, was that the squad announced they'd hired an attorney to represent them in settling the dispute. In response, the town board decided to have their own legal representation to negotiate their positions.
But such an action means that taxpayer money would fund strategic fighting amongst neighbors, rather than compassion, cooperation and generosity that one would expect in a small rural town.
The discord and stress from these and other incidents prompted Pitkin's resignation, he said Monday.
So Lawrence "Red" Pitkin, known for providing thoughtful, objective insight into crucial issues at the county level - and saving area taxpayers a lot of money - is stepping down from public service.
For months, Pitkin has served with distinction. He has been a strong advocate of open, honest government in both in the conduct of town and county business. He's also successfully navigated his way through some contentious issues during his 18 months in office.
Appointed to his post in December 2008, he established a policy of accountability. The town needed it. There was a surplus of more than $800,000 that wasn't accounted for - paid for by taxpayers, contrary to state law. Town officials didn't even know that certain bank accounts even existed.
In town meetings, he's encouraged free expression of public opinion, whether it's gripes, rants, accusations, constructive suggestions for change - or even praise.
He and board member James Ligon have spearheaded an effort to put the finances of the town back on track.
They've taken strides to fully computerize and modernize town record-keeping, while boosting accountability in town government.
He and Ligon have led an effort to bring broadband to town and thus boost local business enterprises as well as residents' connection to the outside world.
They've also sought to improve various governmental procedures and boost the town infrastructure.
Ligon also quit this week, soon after being accused of a bogus conflict of interest because his wife worked on the youth commission board, a position that has no pay.
Ligon is known for dedicating long hours delving into local issues and prudent municipal finance. He'll be missed because he was an honest man with integrity - one who wouldn't bend the truth for political gain.
Then there's his wife, Maria Ligon, who's worked many hours tirelessly for no pay working to create new programs for local youth. After accusations were directed at her over her actions in seeking to replace the youth recreation director, she was voted off the youth commission Tuesday by the town board.
This is a shameful development, one that will hurt the youth of the town.
She had developed new programs for local youth and expanded others. Her work has meant a record number of children have been attending various events like the Thurman Children's Christmas Party, complete with community tree-trimming, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, gifts, caroling, and crafts and more. Or the town Halloween party, complete with contests and games, plus the Easter party with an egg hunt - featuring about 600 eggs - which included all generations decorating eggs together, as well as contests.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. She arranged a full slate of activities in July for the town's youth - far beyond merely kickball, but programs on Adirondack Mammals, orienteering, the wilderness, and productive gardening.
Such programming takes imagination, and the ability to recruit others for volunteer work, and follow-through on arranging all the details. She's also silently donated a fair sum of her own money into these programs.
Asked Monday about her accomplishments, she deferred the credit to the volunteers that worked with her.
So we have three talented, dedicated officials leaving public service in Thurman. Much like a half-dozen others who have in recent years been hounded out of office by back-stabbers.
If several other honest upright people step forward to serve the town, will they put up with being smeared and unjustly vilified?
Does it mean that for town officials to achieve success in politics, they need to be two-faced and engage in shifty, underhanded behavior? Do they have to make deals with unscrupulous people? Do they have to cut political deals to keep the back-stabbers and loudmouths at bay?
Only Thurman residents can make the difference - by merely following the Golden Rule. We need to show kindness and consideration to each other - and put others first in our lives, as has been preached for millenniums. People need to exert more self control over what they say - to be more thoughtful of whether the statements are true or not, and how they will effect others' others encouraging the positive elements of others' personalities.
We need more people acting like Jean Reynolds - she knew how to bring out the best in others - and less like they're appearing on the Jerry Springer show.
Thom Randall is editor of the Adirondack Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org