Weston Ends 16 Years On Fulton Common Council With Praise And Thanks

<p>Alderman Bob Weston at work in a recent Common Council meeting.</p>
Alderman Bob Weston at work in a recent Common Council meeting.

Fulton Common Council meetings are likely to be a little less positive from now on, now that Bob Weston’s 16 year career as an Alderman is over.  They’re also likely to be shorter.

Weston announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection as Alderman from the city’s third ward.  A quick special meeting on Tuesday was the last hurrah of a political career that he said began by accident.

He said he had attended a city Democratic party meeting aimed at picking a third ward candidate.  “Six or eight people might have been interested,” he recalled.  “By the end of the night, no one was.”  On the ride home, fellow committee member Jerry Hogan Kasperek suggested that Weston should run.  He did.  He won.

For 16 years, Weston’s been taking calls from people upset over trash pickup, tax rates and problem neighbors.  “You are a lot closer to the people,” he said.  Sometimes, too close.  During a recent property reassessment, he said he took more than 100 calls in 2 weeks.

If Weston had decided to run for County Legislature or some other local office, he could have shed most of those calls.  But it was precisely the direct connection to people that kept Weston on the Common Council.  “‘I have a complaint,'” Weston said, describing the start of many calls he received over the years.  “‘No’, I said, ‘You have a concern.'”

Caring for people began early in his life.  He said his mother was always taking someone into their home, and often invited a homeless person for Thanksgiving dinner.

“When you do something for somebody, they appreciate it,” he said.

That illustrates Weston’s approach to nearly everything:  Find the positive in the negative.  Local newspapers have run dozens of his and wife Sandy’s letters to the editor over the years, letters which always praise something they attended or were involved with.  He’s a member of local service clubs and is the one person you’ll see at nearly every event around town.  He is a frequent sight in publicity photos for local ribbon cuttings.  And his lengthy end-of-meeting speeches — he once read about half of a thick sheaf of letters students had written to him, taking about 20 minutes — are unfailingly full of praise.

The length of his comments is a running joke on the Common Council.  At his last full meeting in mid-December, Alderman Russ Hayden presented Weston with a microphone, spray painted gold and attached to a wooden plaque.  It was a gift for the man they called “The Speaker of the House”.

“I have a short 45 minute acceptance speech,” he joked.

“I’ve always said that when I grow up, I want to be Bob Weston,” said Alderman Daryl Hayden, who worked with Weston when Hayden was Mayor.

Alderman Jay Foster recalled reaching out to Weston for guidance when he decided to run for Alderman.  Though Foster was a Republican, Weston was glad to help.  “I’ve turned to him as a mentor,” Foster said.

“He’s an ambassador,” said Alderman Tom Kenyon, who could not resist kidding Weston.  “He hasn’t missed a wedding.  He doesn’t know the people, but he’ll be there.”

“Bob Weston’s never had a bad thing to say,” said Mayor Ron Woodward.  “Our city needs that.  Our country needs that.  And I’m gonna miss it.”

“I don’t deserve all that credit,” Weston said.  “People come, people go.  You’re replaceable.”

He said his 8 terms on the Common Council, which included a stint as President, were “a great way to get to know a lot of great people.”

He’d like people to remember this: “That I cared about the community and wanted good things to happen.”

Weston’s final meeting was anticlimactic — a 5 minute special session to hold a single vote. The meeting was not videotaped for playback on cable TV. It wasn’t even held in the Council Chamber, but in the Mayor’s conference room in front of an audience of a single reporter. Two of the six Aldermen were absent.

Even so, Weston could not resist one last opportunity to poke fun at his image when Woodward asked Aldermen if anyone had anything to add.  Weston grabbed a microphone off the top of a file cabinet, getting a laugh because it wasn’t plugged into anything.  “Turn it up,” joked Russ Hayden.  “I can’t hear ya.”

Then he did what he’s done for 16 years.  He said thank you, again and again.