“All my life I tried to be a nice person to the people that needed it,” said Paul O'Donnell. One story that exemplifies this is the one that Mr. O'Donnell would give $20 bills to people in markets whom he thought could use it. Asked about this, he explained that he would tap people on the shoulder and point to a $20 bill on the floor, pick it up, tell them they had dropped it. If they said it wasn't theirs, he would insist, and then walk away. “The trick was to walk away quickly so they couldn't protest,” he said.
Now 81, Mr. O'Donnell is running for selectman, a position he has tried for before, but hasn't won.
The list of things he has done in Webster, however, is long..
He moved to Webster in 1949 from Boston because his brother was living here. His brother loved it and when he came, he did too. “The people here were nicer, more generous than those in Boston,” he said.
Mr. O'Donnell was a carpenter working on construction of UMASS Memorial University Campus in 1973 when one day, upset with the management, he just quit. “They asked me what I was going to do, and I told them I was going to start a newspaper.”
He had done a little writing for the now-defunct Advertiser publication and also had some ideas about Webster stories that weren't being written. He pooled what money he could and started The Patriot newspaper, a weekly covering Webster, Dudley and Oxford. He sold The Patriot in March 2011.
Along the way, Mr. O'Donnell actively participated in Webster town government, serving as chairman of the conservation board, member of the finance board, and member of the charter change committee. He was active in business organizations as director of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as in many social and charitable organizations, including the Webster-Dudley Rotary Club, Webster Lions Club, and Lodge of Elks. He was also a corporator of Hubbard Hospital, United Way and the Webster-Dudley Boys & Girls Club.
His proudest achievements were initiating housing for the elderly in Webster and founding Women's Recognition Night, which he sponsored for 34 years. He began Women's Recognition Night because many of the organizations wouldn't let women in, he explained, and so he decided to have an event just to recognize the contributions women made to the community.
When Mr. O'Donnell ran for selectman years ago, “I lost big time,” he said. Asked why he is running now, “I thought there was room for me, and where I've had so much experience, I could answer a lot of questions. I could do a lot.” He has time now, as he's not working anymore. “I'd rather work than not, that's what makes me feel good.”
What does he see as Webster's biggest challenge? “I'll let you know when I get there. It's not for me to tell them what to do. I'll see what they (selectmen) are doing, and go from there.
“We have a lot of cars going through here, and we've got to get them to stop and buy things. We need more businesses.”
Mr. O'Donnell didn't want to give an opinion on two controversial items, the billboard on I-395 and the paddle wheeler boat. Opinions on those could cost him votes, he said. So he's not going to second-guess the decisions town officials have made.
His concluding remarks were, “Here's my record of service. After 36 or 37 years everybody knows what I've done. I'm ready if you want to vote for me.”
- Wednesday, 25 April 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor