Longtime Braintree official and town Councilor-at-Large Leland Dingee has decided to retire after a 30-year tenure in town government, an announcement that has many reevaluating what to do in the next election.
Dingee made the announcement at Braintree’s Annual Town Meeting, where he said this term, and Town Meeting, would be his last in his elected seat.
“My wife is retired, I’m retired. We’ve places to go, things to see, and friends to be with,” said the 66-year-old Dingee. “As she’s reminded me…we’re always checking to see if there’s a meeting before we make arrangements with anybody. She said it’s time to start enjoying life.”
Dingee also said a health scare this year made him reevaluate how he spends his time, though he noted he is doing better since undergoing a heart procedure.
The announcement has shaken the apple cart of the relatively stable town government, which hasn't changed much since shifting to a mayoral form of government in 2008.
Several councilors have even had to reevaluate their own inclinations to retire, or think about whether they should run for the at-large seat.
“I was devastated by Lee Dingee’s announcement,” said Councilor John Mullaney. “He, I, and [Councilor] Hank Joyce were thinking about [retiring], and we’re concerned about leaving the council now that Lee is leaving and who will make up the council in the future.”
Mullaney said he had been leaning towards retirement, but had reconsidered due to Dingee’s announcement as well as a look at the issues facing the town.
“I had been leaning towards retirement, but I see a number of key issues I’ve hooked into in the past couple of months,” Mullaney said. “One is the direction of the medical marijuana issue and the need to do it correctly and zone it in a safe area of the town. The second thing was the concern of tracking the assets of the town.”
Mullaney announced on May 31 that he would run again.
Dingee won’t be the only one to retire at the end of this term. Councilor Ronald DeNapoli, who has been out frequently due to an undisclosed illness, also said he would not seek re-election.
DeNapoli could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mullaney said Joyce has said the past that wouldn't run, only to change his mind. Joyce could not be reached for comment, and it is still unclear what the veteran councilor will do with the election in November.
Though an at-large seat will no longer have an incumbent, and at least one councilor seat will be vacant, Dingee said he was confident the council could exist without him.
“I think it’s best to stand back,” he said. “I’m sure there are other worthwhile people who would like to run. I think it’s an opportunity for them…it’s a true test of whether [the new government] will work or not is who you will get to run for office.”
Dingee said he was proud of the work he had done in town government, both as a Selectman and as a Town Councilor.
“The most important thing was charter reform,” Dingee said. “…Other than that, I was humbled I was elected as council president. It was up to the mayor and myself to chart the course of how we wanted to set up the government, a crucial task. Once it’s in place, it’s in place. I’m proud of those first two years as council president also.”
Even though he would be leaving, Dingee said he would not be entirely absent from town government. He would still attend Town Meeting every year, and perhaps would attend council meetings every once and awhile.
“I don’t want to just walk away. I want to stay involved,” he said