SHREWSBURY – After 24 years on the Board of Selectmen, John Lebeaux is filled with stories — stories about the history of Shrewsbury, municipal government and decades of service in local and state government.
Now, though, Lebeaux is hanging up his hat, having opted to not seek re-election.
“I’ve been thinking about it for years,” Lebeaux told the Community Advocate in February. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years. I’m 67. I started when I was 43.”
Lebeaux has three grandchildren and two more on the horizon.
Lebeaux, who is Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, is also anticipating that he will be replaced at the end of Gov. Charlie Baker’s current and final term as a new governor transitions into the State House.
That sealed the deal.
Though he was unsure about what’s next for him, Lebeaux floated the idea of working as a consultant to hire town manag- ers and administrators or work- ing with Bigelow Nurseries.
“I’ve had a good run, and I’m happy to hear what some other people have to say or think,” Lebeaux said.
He was honored during his last meeting on April 26 by his fellow selectmen, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar and former colleagues Jim Kane, Henry Fitzgerald and Senator Michael Moore.
Lebeaux’s fellow selectmen noted his knowledge and his- tory of the town. Fitzgerald called him a “great stabilizing force” and a “bedrock of this community” while Kane and Moore noted the Lebeaux con- sistently did what he thought was best for all Shrewsbury residents.
‘This town sustained my family’
A third generation Shrewsbury resident, Lebeaux grew up
and attended school in town. His family was active in town government.
Lebeaux was first elected to Town Meeting when he was 18 — though he hasn’t served as a member consecutively. He was then appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals in 1996.
In December of 1997, for- mer Town Moderator Kevin Byrne was buying Christmas items at his family business Shrewsbury Nurseries when he suggested that Lebeaux should run for the Board of Selectmen. That planted a seed in Lebeaux’s head.
Karyn Polito, who was a Selectmen in Shrewsbury before serving as a State Representative and, eventually, Lieutenant Governor, had announced she didn’t intend to run for reelection.
Lebeaux was attending a meeting for his son’s Boy Scout badge when then Selectman Donna O’Connor made the same announcement.
Lebeaux decided that night to run. He thought he had a good shot with two vacancies and noted that he always had an interest in serving Shrewsbury.
“Without sounding too corny, this town sustained my family,” Lebeaux said.
A Board of Selectmen career
Throughout his service on the board, Lebeaux has been involved with numerous building projects, recently helping form the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Lebeaux said he’s always been interested in the organization of municipal government and calls himself a “student of the history of the board.”
He recalled some of the changes over the years that he’s been involved with, like a decision to remove a residency requirement for Town Managers after former manager Dan Morgado announced his retirement.
Lebeaux repeated his campaign slogan that he’s helped people with everything from roadkill to tax bills.
In his first term, a resident called him on a Saturday to inform him that there was a dead skunk.
“Knowing Town Manager Morgado’s legendary frugalness, I knew that if I called DPW, or the highway department at the time, it would be an over time event and I would catch hell from Dan,” Lebeaux said.
He put a cardboard box in the back of his truck, got a shovel and did a “smell by” through the neighborhood.
He found the skunk and, with the help of former Assis- tant Town Manager Michael Hale who had been working in his yard and saw him driving by, took care of the “incident.” “Kids are pretty [much like], ‘Big deal, dad. You’re a select- man. We don’t care,’ but when I came home and told them that story, their jaws dropped. I think it’s almost the only time that I surprised them,” Lebeaux said.
Lebeaux says goodbye
In his final meeting last month, Lebeaux thanked voters for electing him eight times.
He similarly recognized Shrewsbury volunteers, town staff, fellow selectmen and his family.
“I’ve loved being a member of this board. I love this town… This town has nurtured my family, provided a place to live, to business, and I’m very grateful to it and for the opportunity to try to make it a better place,” Lebeaux said.