WATERVILLE — City Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, is requesting the council on Tuesday approve a statement outlining the city’s values, in the wake of a controversy that erupted recently over Mayor Nick Isgro’s social media posts.

The resolution, added Friday to the council agenda, comes just days after Isgro tweeted “Eat it, Hogg,” in reference to Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg. The Republican Waterville mayor, using his personal Twitter account, was responding to a story that Fox News would continue to back its host Laura Ingraham after she made disparaging remarks about Hogg.

Lessing’s council resolution says: “The future of our city is bright if we affirm that Waterville is a forward thinking, innovative, inclusive, cultural hub in which all people, no matter their race, creed or age are considered equal and feel welcome and respected. We further believe and affirm that diversity is a strength and not a weakness.”

Contacted Friday for comment, Isgro referred to a Facebook statement he posted addressed to the “People of Waterville” that says:

“The political elites and well-connected insiders on the city council have scheduled a vote for Tuesday’s meeting to congratulate themselves for allegedly being welcoming, respectful, and inclusive to residents. They have written a resolution for themselves called a ‘statement of community values.’ Are they deserving of this self-praise? Let’s take a look at some of their actions as of late:

“1. The residents of Ward 5 gathered over 130 signatures and 30 letters in support of who they wanted to fill THEIR vacant City Council seat, and they packed the council chambers to give testimony. The City Council ignored them and voted for one of their insider friends to fill the seat instead.


“2. Just months ago, they pushed another resolution to limit the kinds of opinions residents could voice at City Council meetings. Fortunately, this failed thanks to your help.

“3. Weeks ago, one of the insiders on the City Council who likes to mock residents and draw cartoons during meetings depicting them in an unflattering way, sent an email saying that a ‘right wing Trump supporter’ should not be allowed to serve on the City Council.

“Judging by these actions, it is my estimation that the City Council is not worthy of the praise they seek to bestow upon themselves with this resolution. They have proven to be hostile and non-inclusive to a diversity of opinion when it comes to the residents they claim to represent. It is my view that the City Council must first walk-the-walk before they talk-the-talk. Respect must first be earned. Actions speak louder than words. This resolution should be tabled until the City Council can live up to their own expectations.”

Lessing said in an email Friday that she is trying to promote unity with the resolution.

“We have a great real estate market, new businesses opening all the time, and a major downtown beautification project underway. Everything looks great for Waterville, and I want people to know what a safe, lovely, and warm community this is!”

Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, said Friday in an email that the affirmation is good for business.


“Waterville is in the midst of a thrilling time of expansion, with new businesses opening, a growing real estate market, and wonderful new amenities like the Riverwalk,” Tate said. “We want everyone to join us in these exciting new opportunities, and the world to know that Waterville is a welcoming community.”

After Isgro was criticized for his Tweet, his job as comptroller at Skowhegan Savings Bank ended, though it is not clear if he was fired, asked to resign or chose to resign on his own.

Gov. Paul LePage expressed support for Isgro in a letter to Skowhegan Savings Bank President John Witherspoon, saying it was a mistake to dismiss him over a controversial tweet in which he criticized a school shooting survivor. Witherspoon said later that it was Isgro’s decision to leave the job.

Asked Friday to explain her reason for requesting the council to approve the resolution and statement of community values, Lessing said in an email that diversity in Waterville has always been a strength, and that has been clear to her every day since she arrived in the city more than a decade ago.

“Native Americans have been here from the beginning. African, Anglo, and Franco-Americans began coming in the eighteenth century. Jews and Lebanese Maronite Catholics arrived at the turn of the twentieth century. Today, the city embraces residents who have come to Waterville from all over the globe. We speak many languages, practice many faiths, and live in many kinds of families.”

Lessing’s lengthy statement says that when she moved to the city in 2007 to take a position at the Colby College Museum of Art, she arrived alone as her husband and son were finishing up the school year back in Kansas. She brought only a backpack of supplies and was settling into her mostly-empty house when a neighbor named “Valmont” knocked on the door.


“He was carrying three folding chairs under one arm and a box of dishes in the other. Over the next hour, he brought me pretty much everything I needed to be comfortable in my new house before the moving truck came. I made him dinner, and he told me about how he had come here himself many years earlier by walking along the railroad track from Canada with his mother and brothers and sisters in search of work. As they walked, the kids picked up coal that had fallen off the train cars. At night, they camped around a fire made with that coal. Val worked in the mills here. He became a citizen (he carried a pocket copy of the constitution with him at all times, and gave it to me before he died). He fought in the Second World War. He married and became a manager. He built a house for his family and sent his children to college. Val was getting older, and was widowed. Over the next several years, his grown children and the ladies in my neighborhood checked in on him frequently. Personally, I was honored to do this. He was our neighbor and we were his. We cared about him.”

Lessing also talked about getting to know her Lebanese-American neighbors and hearing a story about how a Lebanese-owned grocery supplied Waterville’s Jewish community with Kosher meat for many years.

“I could talk about what it meant to me to see more than two hundred of my fellow Waterville residents gather together in that synagogue in the wake of an antisemitic graffiti incident in December 2016 … My point is that THIS is who we are as a community. We are neighbors, good ones, and we care about one another. I’m hoping this resolution will affirm that to everyone who lives here, or might come here to live, shop, or visit in the future.”

Meanwhile, an effort is afoot to recall Isgro from the mayoral position.

Former Mayor Karen Heck and residents Jim Chiddix and Hilary Koch took out paperwork at Waterville City Hall Monday to initiate the recall process for Isgro, a Republican serving his second term as mayor who recently toyed with the idea of running for governor but decided against it.

Lessing said this week that she is not on social media, but constituents in her ward brought concerns to her in October about a post Isgro had made about the Maine March for Racial Justice held at Colby College. She also shared a screenshot of the post.


“Why were two city councilors just spotted in a crowd that’s waving communist Antifa flags?” it said.

Lessing said the post prompted one of Isgro’s followers to post a threat that left her constituents frightened. Lessing didn’t see the threat herself but was told that the man who posted it threatened to drive a car into marchers. She said she reported the screenshot and threat to Colby security.

“Those marchers were not Antifa, for goodness sake — they were Colby students, faculty, city councilors, and local clergy (including my Rabbi),” she said in an email. “The thought that anyone in office might incite violent anger against these folks was stomach churning. It’s all the more confusing because Nick himself does not present this way in public, where (though I sometimes disagree with him politically) he generally seems personable and intelligent.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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