“Eat it, Hogg.” Three little words. Harmless, right?

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro recently tweeted this in response to a Fox News’ decision to support one of its talk show hosts, Laura Ingraham. Ingraham had posted a nasty remark about Parkland survivor, and teenager, David Hogg.

Social media and technology can be incredible tools, but a knee-jerk text message, a less-than-becoming photo, a comment, or a tweet have ruined many a career. Right or wrong, it’s the reality of our ever-changing, 24/7-connected world. Social media blunders often reveal more than the owner would like, but once they’re “out there,” they cannot be taken back. Now, Isgro is learning what might be the hardest lesson of his political career.

The initial response to Isgro’s tweet is outrage from the left, while the right argues that folks just need a thicker skin. Sticks and stones, right?

But I’d argue words matter, and they matter all the more when aimed at a child by someone in a position of power. I have known Mayor Isgro for many years and he has always been kind to me and my family. But it’s only in recent months that I’ve been following his political career more carefully, and I have been increasingly concerned with his public statements and his political rhetoric. This tweet is the final straw for me, and I have come to the conclusion that Mayor Isgro needs to resign or be removed from office.

If a teacher or a principal said, “Eat it,” to a student, every parent, every school board, would take swift action, and rightly so. Part of being a grownup is modeling appropriate behavior for children. Isgro holds a position of power as mayor and has been elected by the people to serve the people.

David Hogg has witnessed a tragedy most can never fathom. Yet Hogg has found a way to channel trauma into activism and he should be applauded. Hogg is articulate, and he has no problems sparking conversation, if not controversy. He is a child on the brink of adulthood, but a child nonetheless. When grownups pick on kids, other grownups need to speak up. When grownups fail to lead children and model behavior worthy of emulating, other grownups need to be willing to take the steering wheel.

I still believe that we are better than our worst mistakes. Isgro has made a big mistake, and the fact that he has deleted his tweet would indicate he understands this. But why he deleted it is unclear; he has made no public statement. Offering sincere advice, I’ll start by telling him he needs to come out publicly, apologize and offer an explanation. I believe he has aspirations of higher office, and while Isgro has assured me he isn’t running for governor, I’ll say he isn’t running for governor now.

I think he’s looking at the long game, and I think most of his public statements are crafted with that in mind. Judging by the fact that he has at least one “white-pride” follower on Twitter, Mayor Isgro is taking his lead from the man sitting in the highest office. If bullying works for him, surely why not follow? Except that it’s wrong. Mayor Isgro knows this. I really, truly, sincerely believe that he knows this. I’d ask him to contemplate his motivations for being in office. If his tweets are motivated by anything other than a desire to serve our community and make the world a better place, then it is time for him to step away.

I’m not going to sit in judgment and claim to be perfect. I am, however, going to hold a publicly elected official accountable. When you have come to the point where you pick on children for political points, it is time to get back to basics, focus on your beautiful family, and recalibrate your moral compass.

I feel strongly about taking personal responsibility. When we make mistakes, we need to own them honestly and learn from them. As I’ve told my children, our biggest mistakes offer us the best opportunities to grow and be better people. It is hard to admit we are imperfect. It is unfortunate when it happens publicly.

Isgro has made a whopper of a mistake. His tweet reveals he is incapable of leading by example. Instead, he is being led. He is serving only what he feels might benefit himself. Owning this mistake must include resigning as mayor of Waterville.

While I disagree with Isgro politically, I take no joy in anyone’s failings or embarrassment. But he would win my unending respect if he can apologize to Hogg, to Waterville, and resign, understanding he is no longer fit to serve as mayor.

Disagreement in a democracy is a good thing, but Isgro’s actions crossed a line. We should let our words and actions help people, not hurt them. At this moment, Isgro has some serious work to do, starting by pointing a finger at himself, not at a child in Florida.

Mayor Isgro, I offer you continued friendship, but you have lost my support as mayor. You had three words for a teenager, David Hogg. I have three words for you: Mayor Isgro, resign.

Hilary Koch lives in Waterville.


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