Appleton selectman honored for devoted municipal serviceCited for 'unwavering dedication'
Appleton — Donald Burke, chairman of the board of selectmen, received the Ethel Kelly Memorial Award from the Maine Municipal Association Oct. 2.
The award was presented at a luncheon, part of MMA’s annual conference at Augusta Civic Center. According to Communication and Educational Services Director Eric Conrad, 600 people were on hand for the presentation. Kelly was a 45-year employee of the MMA, who, according to prepared remarks at the luncheon by former MMA President Anne Swift-Kayatta, “did just about every job at the Association.” The award in her name honors a municipal official who has “devoted his/her life to local government,” Kayatta said.
Burke said when Selectman Denise Pease told him about a week before the presentation that he was to receive the award, he felt, “panicked … totally blown away.”
The criteria for the award include 20 or more years of service to a municipality by a person who is selflessly concerned for members of their community; capable and conscientious; willing and able to hold the community together; and dedicated to serving local government and needs. The person may be currently serving or retired within the last two years, and should be someone who has not previously been recognized for their service.
Nominations came from fellow selectmen, residents, town employees and people who know him from various organizations to which Burke gives his time.
In her nomination, Pease said in addition to his work for the Board of Selectmen, on which he has served for 26 years, 19 of those as chairman, Burke is actively involved in Appleton Historical Society, Mildred Stevens Williams Memorial Library, Burkettville Grange, the Memorial Association and the board of Tri-County Solid Waste.
She wrote, “From our first introduction, it was evident to me that he knew a thing or two about Appleton and took immense pride in our little town. … I am in awe of his unwavering dedication … .”
Besides his service to the town, Pease said in her nomination, “Burke simultaneously served his country … while maintaining full-time employment, harvesting his wild blueberries each August and raising four children.”
Burke was in the Army and Army Reserves.
Donovan Bowley, a trustee of Appleton Historical Society, wrote Burke “has expressed knowledgeable interest in almost every aspect of Appleton’s history, and has been very persistent in tracking down the identity of people in various group photographs. … He keeps in touch with the older, and the shut-in members, and aids their participation when possible.”
Bowley added that Burke “participates without a shade of self-promotion.”
In his nomination, Tri-Town Solid Waste Manager James Guerra referred to Burke’s “perfect attendance record at Board of Directors meetings, active participation, and attention to the details.”
However, “what really captures me is his selflessness,” wrote Guerra.
He went on to say, “My experience with Mr. Burke is that he leaves his personally held philosophies and judgments at the door when he enters the room as a selectman, taking each citizen’s grievance or concern seriously.”
Guerra also told a story in his nomination about how Burke approached the board of Tri-County Solid Waste seeking to have the transfer station lower its charges “to people in dire economic or unhealthy circumstances.”
At first the proposal proved divisive, Guerra said, but, “Mr. Burke’s delivery and encouragement kept the board positively focused on the issue until a proposal came from another member that was cheered by all. … We are a stronger board and I am a better manager having known Mr. Donald Burke all these years.”
Nominators also commented on concern and kindness to people in town. Residents Nancy Brown and Elaine Tracy wrote that, “Donald knows just about everyone who lives in Appleton, and helps provide assistance when and where it is needed. … The town of Appleton and the people who live here are very important to Donald and he gives generously of his time to all.”
Town Clerk Pam Smith and Deputy Clerk Rebecca Hughes also remarked on Burke’s selflessness and generosity.
“He can be seen lending a hand wherever needed, whether at a public supper serving food, finding work for the town’s youths, helping deliver holiday baskets or giving people rides to the store, located several miles away, so they can get groceries,” they wrote.
Pease wrote, “He rarely misses a public benefit supper, and it’s not uncharacteristic of him to deliver heating oil or food to those going through a rough patch.”
She concluded, “He gives of himself because it’s the thing to do, not for fanfare or because it’s expected.”
For his part, Burke, who likes to be called by his last name, said he enjoys the opportunity his role as a selectman gives him to be involved in community affairs, and he likes doing a thorough, detailed job.
He said he enjoyed the award luncheon because he was able to bring his two grandchildren, ages 5 and 7.
“And I didn’t have to make a speech,” he said, laughing.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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