UNION — A local resident accused the town manager of being unprofessional after asking him to use gender-neutral language when referring to Select Board members and other elected officials and in doing the town’s business.

During the course of an email correspondence with members of the Select Board and Town Manager Jay Feyler, resident Elizabeth Dickerson brought up recent legislation calling for just such a change.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Vicki Doudera, D—Camden, legally changed many terms used by Maine municipalities for elected officials. LD 1522, “An Act To Update and Eliminate References in Statue to Aldermen, Selectmen and Overseers of the Poor,” was signed into law June 17.

This legislation changes terminology such as “Board of Selectmen” to “Select Board,” and other gender-neutral terms for officials, in all Maine municipalities.

Dickerson brought the legislation to the attention of the Union Select Board in emails on Aug. 5 and 6.

“I’m seeing that the town of Union is still calling everyone ‘selectmen’ on its website. The verbiage concerning overseer of the poor also changed to a more modern and less Dickensonian descriptor,” Dickerson wrote.

Feyler responded that the legislation was a “fluff bill” which will cost Maine municipalities time and money without changing anything.

“Overseer of the Poor to Overseer does not make the person suddenly rich,” Feyler wrote. “I am sure everyone on welfare is jumping with joy that they are no longer poor.”

Feyler also said he was sure the discussion and emails would continue, but he would likely not answer.

“Please do not get offended if I do not replay to this thread again,” he wrote.

Dickerson then emailed members of the board that the new language would make more people feel welcome to participate. She also commented on Feyler’s response.

“I’m pretty floored by the level of unprofessionalism exhibited by your town manager, as well, and that email he sent me should be giving you folks some serious heartburn,” she said.

In an email response to The Courier-Gazette, Feyler said he did not have an issue with the legislative changes, but rather with the time and money it will cost.

“(Lawmakers) need to be honest and put a cost into the bill as I am sure state employees are not working for free,” Feyler said.

He pointed in his email to Dickerson costs associated including changes to websites and stationary.

Union Select Board Chair Adam Fuller responded to Dickerson that he supported the bill, but was not sure about the costs of time and money to make these changes.

Fuller and board member Bill Lombardi both pointed out that the Union board had passed a resolution to use gender-neutral wording in January.

This resolution did not update existing documents, but did allow the terminology moving forward.

Board member Martha Johnston-Nash responded that she has never been upset over the term “Selectman,” and she agreed with Feyler on some points.

“There are too many ‘fluff bills’ in the State Legislature,” Johnston-Nash wrote.

Dickerson responded she was concerned about Feyler’s response to her email.

“I got personally blasted by your town manager, who behaved in an unprofessional way which showed attitudes of exclusion, disrespect toward the legislation, and avarice toward persons experiencing poverty,” Dickerson wrote. “I am now in receipt of your email which is not much different in tone.”

Dickerson also wrote to Johnston-Nash that gender-neutral language was now the law.

“I’m sorry you don’t agree with an action that only serves to include people,” Dickerson wrote. “…There are individuals who did not agree with Rosa Parks when she refused to move to the back of the bus.”

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