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Susan Collins Offers Support After Jackman Fires Town Manager For White Separatist Views

Caitlin Troutman
Maine Public
Susan Collins in Jackman on Thursday.

Nine days after Jackman selectmen unanimously fired the town manager for his white separatist, anti-immigrant views, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine showed up to offer her support.

She also distanced herself from a Republican member of the Maine Legislature whose emailed comments about a “war on whites” is also drawing attention this week.

Collins was barely through the door of Schmooses in Jackman when she said what so many residents already believed to be true.

“You did the right thing,” she said. “I want everyone to know what a warm and welcoming community this is, a community that welcomes everyone regardless of their race or their religion or any other factor.”

Credit Caitlin Troutman / Maine Public
Maine Public
Schmooses in Jackman on Thursday.

Saying she understood they’d been through a rough patch, Collins then told about 50 residents who turned out for the event that lunch was on her.

Speaking with reporters afterward, Collins said she was impressed with how decisively the town’s Board of Selectmen acted. The news about Tom Kawcyznski’s interest in voluntarily segregating the races broke on a Friday, and he was terminated from his job the following Tuesday.

“To me, that sends such a strong signal that intolerance is just not part of who we are in the state of Maine and in the community of Jackman,” she said.

Collins was then asked about Republican state Rep. Larry Lockman of Amherst, who is serving his third term in the Maine Legislature and who Collins endorsed in 2014. Lockman, who has been known for his extreme views about gays and immigrants, this week sent out an email attacking a bill to create immigrant welcome centers as part of the “left’s war on whites.”

The comments, first highlighted by the Maine Beacon, echo language used by the white supremacist movement.

Collins said Lockman will not be getting her support for re-election.

“I am very disappointed in many of the comments he has made. He has every right to make them and we believe in free speech but he certainly will not be getting my support,” she said.

Responding to a request for comment, Lockman said he thinks it is fair to say that there is a war on whites and he makes no apologies for what he said in his email or an op-ed he wrote following up.

Jackman residents, meanwhile, said they’re proud of the way their town leaders dealt with the former town manager. Selectman Alan Duplessis said he has received emails and calls from around the country.

“They said that, ‘We can’t believe you worked this quick and took care of things as fast as you did but we’re so glad that you did,’” he said, adding that he has received no negative feedback.

Duplessis said it was important to the Board of Selectmen that Jackman not become a battleground for white supremacists.

By all accounts, life has returned to normal. The board has hired an interim town manager, Mitch Berkowtiz, who has served in the role twice before, to run things for them. Duplessis said that of the many lessons learned in the past two weeks, one of the biggest is that the next applicants for the job need to be more thoroughly vetted.

This story was originally published Feb. 1, 2018 at 5:32 p.m. ET.