Legacy of Leadership: Father, daughter mark 37 years on Cumberland council

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CUMBERLAND — It’s been rare over the past 50 years to not see a Storey among the Town Council lineup.

Harland Storey spent 25 on the panel between 1969 and 2006. Upon his departure, he ceremonially passed the gavel on to his daughter, Shirley Storey-King, who has spent the past 12 years at the Council Chambers dais and was recently elected to a fifth term.

Cumberland was more of a farming town with large open tracts when Storey, now 85, was elected to its five-member Board of Selectmen in March 1969. When Cumberland changed to a town manager/town council form of government in 1973, Storey remained on board until 1979, returning in 1981-82 and taking a decade off before his final 1991-2006 stint.

Growing up on the same part of Middle Street in the 1930s and 1940s where he lives now, “I used to have to walk from here to the Tuttle Road School … regardless of the weather,” Storey said June 21 in an interview alongside his daughter at his home, where he’s lived with wife Carol since 1961.

A commercial truck driver, Storey found himself switching jobs whenever the company he worked for would go out of business. First A&P, then “another small trucking outfit,” and finally St. Johnsbury, he said.

“Then I worked for the Yarmouth School Department,” driving buses for 12 years until his 2008 retirement, he recalled. “I couldn’t put them out of business.”

Explaining the length of his tenure on the council, Storey said, “I’m the type (who feels), don’t just sit back and bitch about it; try to do something about it.”

He recalled “a small crisis going on back then” regarding taxes. When he congregated with neighbors to complain, they suggested he run for office, “so I ran and stayed with it for a good many years.”

Losing one election by just a single vote to Ken Partyka, Storey declined to request a recount. “I’d be damned if I (would),” he remembered with a smile. “‘Welcome to it, Ken; give me a break.'”

Thinking back on his years facing an audience of constituents, Storey said, “to be a good councilor you’ve got to be a good listener.”

As a selectman in the time before the town hired a manager, he found himself having to do much more listening.

“I’ve had many a supper here on the friggin’ telephone,” he said, rolling his eyes at the receiver mounted on the wall by the kitchen table where he sat.

“The kids used to say, take the phone off the hook,'” Storey’s wife of nearly 60 years, Carol, chimed in.

Likely the last living selectman, Storey leaned over and knocked on some wood.

Family counciling

When contentious issues come before the town these days, Storey-King and her dad tend not to butt heads over the way they should be handled.

“We may disagree, but I hardly ever argue with him,” she smiled.

As he looked to wrap up his time on the council in 2003, Storey had hoped that a family member would succeed him on the panel.

“I think he wanted one of my brothers, because they had the right last name, instead of a hyphenated last name,” Storey-King, a teacher at Greely Middle School, said wryly. “But no one did it.”

Storey-King, a busy young mother at the time and the eldest among her parents’ six children, agreed to run in 2006 if her dad served one more term. And the rest is history.

She agreed with her father about the importance of listening and giving deep thought to issues, something she credits her father with doing well.

“He’s well-practiced, and very philosophical,” Storey-King said.

Storey advised those eyeing a bid for the office to spend six months prior to an election attending council meetings, “to see how it operates, see if this is something (they) really want to do.”

While he doesn’t get to many council meetings these days, Storey will watch the live broadcasts from home. Storey-King, whose Shirley Lane residence neighbors her parents’, said with a chuckle that “sometimes the light’s still on when I get home. And once or twice there’s been a phone call.”

“Now and then I talk to the television, (saying) ‘damn it, you should know the answer to that,'” Storey said with a grin.

“I don’t have the memory he has, that’s for sure,” Storey-King said.

“I kind of wonder how she feels sometimes, when there’s one of them burning little questions that come up, and I decide to go to the council meeting,” Storey said. “I know some of the other councilors (think) ‘oh, what do you got to say now?'”

Storey-King turned to her father. “You’ve come a couple of times to speak, and I’m less fearful now than when I was starting.”

To encourage more input from those unable to attend, Storey suggested the Town Council add a half hour call-in segment to their meetings.

“A radio talk show by the Cumberland Town Council,” Storey-King quipped.

“They think it’s funny, but I think it’d be very beneficial,” Storey retorted. “… I think they’d get a lot more input if (residents) would call, because people aren’t just gonna go (to the meetings) … but they might pick up the phone.”

“I think it would be a nice community service,” he added.

Changing times

Storey-King was 9 when her father first ran for the Board of Selectmen.

“I remember, right here on this dining room table, making posters for his election,” the 57-year-old said.

At that time Cumberland had many more farms, she recalled. Her father likened the feeling of seeing many homes crop up in the years since to “being squeezed.”

“There was a lot of open space back then,” Storey said. “In fact, I could sit here in 1969 and name every person in every house between here and Cumberland Center. Now I can’t even name them on the Middle Road.”

“People would just stop in, and talk about stuff,” Storey-King added, remembering then-Police Chief Dick Anderson spending hours discussing issues with her father.

Mary Louise Smith, a selectman and councilor from 1972-80, would while away the hours there, too. “They would get in these heated discussions … and Mary Lou at times made him look liberal. And then sometimes it would be the other way around, depending on the issue,” Storey-King said.

Social media has taken away from that kind of constructive communication, she added.

People had stronger relationships back then, “and with that came respect,” Storey-King noted. “You didn’t have to agree with someone, but if you’re talking about something face-to-face, you have to be respectful.”

Her dad sat up in his chair.

“Yeah, but don’t pull any punches; let it all hang out, too,” he advised. “Don’t try and make excuses and go around the bush; tell it as it is. Like it or lump it, that’s the way it is.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Harland Storey and his daughter, Shirley Storey-King, have between them served nearly 40 years on the Cumberland Town Council since 1969. Storey sits in the chair he received from the town upon stepping down in 2006, after which Storey-King succeeded him.

Harland Storey and his daughter, Shirley Storey-King, have between them served nearly 40 years on the Cumberland Town Council since 1969. Storey sits in the chair he received from the town upon stepping down in 2006, after which Storey-King succeeded him.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.