By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Board of Health chairman Nick LoConte abruptly resigned Tuesday night stating he wants to focus on his potentially upcoming seat on the Town Council.
LoConte has been a Board of Health for the better part of three years and is running unopposed for Precinct 3 on the town council.
In the past few months there has been some friction on the board. Much of it began in July after a heated discussion with a doctor from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
At Tuesday’s meeting, in a prepared statement, LoConte thanked those he had worked with in the past, including Heather Engman, Tracey Honan, Al LeGee, Meredith Hurley and Deanna Faretra and Peter Gill, who appointed LoConte to the Board of Health.
LoConte noted that he was proud to have led a successful campaign to end styrofoam to-go containers.
Before he left the meeting, LoConte urged current board members to “exercise restraint as they contemplate one of the most restrictive municipal tobacco regulations in all of Massachusetts that would raise the tobacco buying age to 21 and other restrictions that will make it more difficult for small businesses to thrive in Winthrop.”
LoConte went on to say, “The Board has yet to invite any local store owners who will be impacted and not one adult under age 21 who will have their rights taken away to discuss their perspective.”
“The remaining board should also commit to a public information campaign on their proposal including WCAT appearances and going before the Town Council in an open public session before passing any new regulations the Board of Health has passed,” concluded LoConte before he left the meeting.
Board of Health member Bill Schmidt said LoConte’s departure and comments were “quite frankly a sign of immaturity. Nick knows there has to be a public hearing and our meetings are posted and open to the public. This doesn’t reflect well on him.”
“Personally , I am most disappointed in Nick’s inability to objectively consider, challenge and deliberate tobacco regulation policies that impact and enhance health quality for our constituents, particularly, our youth,” stated Board of Health member Susan Maguire after the meeting. “It has become apparent to me that Nick’s primary ‘customers’ are the small businesses in Winthrop, and the impact changes in regulations might have on them, and not the positive impact changes might have on our youth and adult constituents.”
“Certainly we have not started deliberations and we are certainly not targeting small businesses,” Maguire said.
Jeanne Magian, head of the town’s Medical Reserve Corp who attended the Board of Health meeting, said LoConte appeared to have an issue with freedoms over health issues.
“This shows me immaturity on his part that’s a little frightening,” Maggio said. “He doesn’t stay the course.”