WATERVILLE — A shouting match erupted Tuesday between Mayor Nick Isgro and a resident who criticized him for his stance on Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples Day, with Isgro slamming his gavel on the table, ordering the man to sit down, declaring the meeting adjourned and leaving the room.

The incident occurred minutes after the City Council voted 6-0 to recognize the titles of all holidays as determined by the state.

Bob Vear, who often speaks to various issues at council meetings, stood during the community notes section of the agenda to say Isgro is drawing national attention to Waterville — and not in a good way — by proclaiming Oct. 14 Columbus Day after the state changed it to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Vear further blasted Isgro for posting on his mayoral Twitter feed that he hoped those who came from out of town to attend an Indigenous Peoples Day rally Monday night outside City Hall spent money locally at restaurants and other businesses while they were here.

“‘Wampum’ was missing from that message,” Vear said. “But our heart saw that word in there.”

He assured Isgro that as mayor, he does not speak for all Waterville residents.

“We feel you, as mayor, are not respectful of the people of Waterville,” Vear said.

Bob Vear speaks Tuesday at a Waterville Council meeting. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Isgro tried to shut him down, indicating his allotted three minutes were up, but Vear continued. Both raised their voices.

“I’m going over — I have that right,” Vear shouted, as Isgro angrily slammed the gavel.

“No, you don’t,” Isgro said. “You’re out of line. Sit down.”

Isgro looked to City Manager Michael Roy for help.

“Mike, this is unacceptable at a City Council meeting,” he said.

Vear, who earlier in the meeting, during a discussion about ambulances purchases, said he had had several heart attacks, refused to step away from the podium. Isgro told him that was unacceptable.

“This meeting is adjourned,” Isgro shouted.

Vear said he was not leaving, and from the audience, resident Bryan Evans said Vear could have his minutes.

“I yield my time,” he said.

Roy walked over to Vear and spoke quietly to him. Isgro walked out of the chamber at 8:33 p.m., and for a moment, no one spoke.

Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, allowed Vear to continue in the mayor’s absence.

“Bob, go ahead, you’ve got three more minutes,” he said.

Vear continued reading aloud from a prepared speech, intermittently breaking down and crying.

Bob Vear gets his blood pressure checked Tuesday after speaking at the Waterville Council meeting. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

“Mayor Isgro, you do not let us speak freely and are not afraid of using your gavel when crosshairs are pointed in your direction,” he said. “That is definitely not leadership at its finest. Leadership is earned. Leadership is accepting peaceful agreement. Leadership leads to a community that accepts all to the table to converse, mutually, across aisles, and that is not the kind of leadership we need in these ever-changing times of ours.”

He asked Isgro to resign, effective midnight Tuesday, and allow Mayhew to preside in his place.

“As residents of the city of Waterville, Mayor Isgro, you have tarnished this city again.”

Visibly shaken, Vear, who is in his 60s, started walking out of the chamber as stunned faces looked on, with fire Chief Shawn Esler and other firefighters following him.

Outside, on the sidewalk, police had gathered with firefighters, and one of them was taking Vear’s blood pressure.

Earlier, during the meeting and before the vote, Mayhew offered an amendment to the resolution, asking that the city recognize both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. He said that he spoke to his ward constituents and they were divided about what the city should call the holiday. His amendment failed for lack of a second.

The council vote Tuesday came two weeks after Isgro proclaimed Oct. 14 as Columbus Day, eschewing a law Maine passed in April changing the state-recognized holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

A “Happy Columbus Day” sign was displayed Saturday in the window of the mayor’s office at Waterville City Hall. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Isgro’s proclamation, which he read aloud at an Oct. 1 council meeting, drew backlash from those who say it was a slap in the face to indigenous people, given historians have noted Christopher Columbus was responsible for cruel, abusive and murderous acts toward the native inhabitants of the Caribbean islands.

Nevertheless, a poster declaring “Happy Columbus Day” appeared Saturday in the mayor’s office window at City Hall and was visible from Castonguay Square, but apparently was taken down sometime before the rally Monday honoring indigenous people occurred outside the building.

The resolution councilors approved Tuesday, proposed by Councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Jay Coelho, D-Ward 5, says: “Be it resolved by the Waterville City Council, acting as the governing body for the city, that the city recognizes the titles of all holidays as determined by the state.”

However, Morris and Coelho said last week the proposed resolution has nothing to do with Isgro.

They said if the council passed a resolution declaring the city will recognize holidays the same way the state does, it will alleviate confusion among residents. Coelho said he also thought a mayoral proclamation should be for recognizing achievements and helping to raise awareness about a particular topic.

Both said the city posted a notice saying City Hall offices would be closed for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and that someone modified the notice and put it on social media with all of the same information except replaced “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” with “Columbus Day.”

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