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UD‘s dinky but massively over-educated town (UD has often thought the town should take its motto from The Importance of Being Earnest — a slightly revised version of Algernon’s If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated… Here it would be If I am geographically a little under-sized, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.) has a mayor and a town council, and there’s a real race for the council this year. Garrett Park’s YouTube channel features the candidates’ forum, which you might not find as engrossing as I do (I know almost all of the people featured in the video, and I’ve known some of them for fifty years), but I think it’s a pretty interesting slice of a certain sort of American life.

Civil discourse dominates, along with a really striking love of the town – its amazing trees and gardens, but also all the stuff it manages to pack into its tiny size – a post office, a popular restaurant, a train station, a town hall, three swimming pools, a farmer’s market, basketball courts, tennis courts, quite a few parks (another park’s on the way, because Laetitia Yeandle, who spent a long distinguished career at the Shakespeare Folger Library, has given the town her house and land) (and speaking of Laetitias and Earnest, my talented cousin Karen will be performing Miss Laetitia Prism in an upcoming production of Earnest, and if you’re local you should try to go because I KNOW this woman, and I know she was born to play Prism), an elementary school, a church… It’s quite a jewel, Garrett Park, and some residents really don’t take to making any changes.

References throughout the forum to sidewalks refer to the anger some townspeople have expressed over GP having scored a big grant to add sidewalks to some of its streets. Although most people agree they improve safety (with very little traffic and a beautiful setting, GP is jammed with pedestrians, cyclists, etc.), some think sidewalks are out of keeping with GP’s natural, lightly-paved, character… And I can understand this, though I don’t agree – I can understand because I grew up across the street from Wells Park (I now live down the street from it) and I recall being upset years ago when Park and Planning paved a path into the park. I sort of knew I was overreacting and being irrational, but that park had always been open land with swing sets and now…

Fact is ol’ UD has responded with some alarm to virtually all changes in town, and yet she now loves and appreciates the changes. They were made by the sort of people running for council (although all the candidates at the forum are men, another member of the council is a woman, and the mayor is a woman) – judicious, intelligent, hard-working. Most of these volunteers have full-time jobs as … well, lawyers… I mean, some are engineers or architects (those, along with the odd CPA, are the best sort of council members, because they actually know how certain things work), but I guess traditionally most have been lawyers. One of the people running this year owns Founding Farmers restaurants plus other enterprises and must be insanely busy; but his heart seems to be in his work on the council.

I liked in particular one thing this guy – Dan Simons – said at the forum. A citizen asked a question about citizen participation in the workings of the town – she acknowledged that by any standard our little town boasts huge numbers of serious volunteers (UD for years, as you know, attended and reported on town council meetings for the GP paper, The Bugle; and Mr UD was a town council member himself), but she still found bothersome the fact that plenty of other citizens don’t volunteer. “They don’t even know we have a mayor and a town council!”

Simons said that the town does a lot and might do even more to draw people in to the business of running it, but: “When I first moved here I had two little kids, start-up businesses, and other responsibilities, and I had no time for any of that. It happens when the time is right; and for some people it’s never right, and I think that’s okay. Some people just want to live here.”

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