While Berlin was putting its best foot forward during the 1st Annual Jazz and Blues Bash, its mayor passed away at his home of cardiac arrest.
Mayor Tom Cardinale would have enjoyed the scene on Main Street last Saturday. Mixing it up with residents and visitors alike was one of his favorite things to do. He enjoyed the personal aspects of being mayor. As obvious as that was, it was equally evident he took the shortfalls of life as a politician to heart. He had thin skin and did not revel in the inevitable criticism that comes with public life. He took it all too personal.
Even Cardinale would admit his term did not go as he anticipated. He had unfinished business. Perhaps, that’s why he announced back in January, 10 months before the election, he would be filing for another term. The fact is his term was marked by notable failures, such as the electric plant referendum, a lawsuit by the town’s former finance administrator who he fired and a miscommunication fiasco involving a planning commission member who had brain cancer, to name a few, but that does not speak to what Cardinale was about. He was a much better man than a politician.
Cardinale deserves this community’s respect. He was not perfect. He readily admitted his faults when it was necessary. He wore his heart on his sleeve and admitted he mishandled a situation when it happened. That’s a sign of a good man.
What we admired about Cardinale was he saw something he did not like and got off the proverbial sideline and put himself in the game. He was a political neophyte, having never held a public or appointed office, but he overwhelmingly defeated an entrenched incumbent to become mayor in 2004. His main reason for entering politics was a persistent flooding issue around his neighborhood. Unfortunately, that issue never got the town’s full attention under Cardinale, but that’s how politics and government work.
Berlin is a town with a lot of issues. It’s a wonderful and charming place to work, live and visit, but there are a number of serious problems, such as its debt service, the growing EDU allocation dilemma, faulty roads and employee turnover. Cardinale tried to rectify these issues and others, but no single person can resolve them. It will take years to work these out.
Today, we choose to remember Cardinale as a man who did not like what he saw in his new hometown and tried to do something about it. We will remember him for his huge smile and charitable spirit, evidenced each year around the holidays when he gave out bikes to underprivileged youngsters. The man cared about Berlin.
Although some disagreed with how he did his job, Cardinale should be remembered fondly for his heart and intent. He had a burning desire to serve the people and in this society that’s commendable because it’s a thankless job with long hours, lots of headaches and few, if any, rewards.