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Jackman Selectmen To Meet With Town Manager Over White Separatist Postings

Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
A sign marking the town of Jackman.

The town manager of Jackman is expected to learn his fate at an emergency selectmen's meeting Tuesday following revelations that he's a white separatist who's promoting the creation of a "white homeland" on social media.

Town officials were apparently unaware of Tom Kawczynski's views until media outlets reported on them Friday. Now this small western Maine town, which relies heavily on tourism, is facing public backlash. Many local residents have made it clear that the only separation they want is from him.

He's compared Islam to barbarism, criticized feminists, railed on immigrants and solicited contributions for the defense of New Albion, the utopian white community he wants to create.

Credit Susan Sharon

 

Reaction to Kawczynski’s view of a new social order has been swift and fierce. On Facebook over the weekend, many called for his immediate firing. Others called for a boycott of Jackman until he is gone. A few have defended his right to free speech.

"We hope that the selectmen will make the right decision in this matter,” said Kimberly Danforth.

Danforth has lived in Jackman most of her life. Her father, Raymond Levesque, runs the popular Bishop Store. Levesque declined to speak with reporters but did share a copy of a letter he wrote to Tom Kawczynski. In it he writes that as French Canadian descendants, his family members dropped the name Levesque's Market to try to combat discrimination common in the mid-1900s. Now Levesque says he welcomes all customers to his business, and he's asking Kawczynski to part ways with the town. It's a sentiment shared by other residents.

"Well, I'd like to see him go, obviously. I think a lot of people would," said Tara Achey Roberts, speaking at Mama Bear's, her grandmother's restaurant. Roberts says she loves Jackman because of all there is to do in the outdoors: hunting, fishing, snowmobiling. But Kawczynski's offensive views, she says, have no place here.

"He might have a few supporters but I think the majority of the town are definitely against his racism," she said.

  Vanessa Harnois is a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe who recently moved to Jackman and works at a Passamaquoddy maple syrup business. She says residents have been nothing but welcoming and supportive of her.

  "The people that I've met in this town are nothing like that," she said. Like others, Harnois says she was shocked to learn of the town manager's divisive beliefs. "I hope the town just makes the best decision that they can, really."

Credit Susan Sharon / Maine Public
/
Maine Public
Kimberly Danforth of Jackman hands reporters copies if her father's letter to Tim Kawcynski. Her father is Raymond Leverages, owner of Bishop's Store.

Larry Mead says the best decision would be for Kawczinski to leave. Mead, who does not live in Jackman, is president of the Maine Town, City and County Government Association. He says Kawczynski's views are incompatible with the role and responsibilities of a municipal manager who is supposed to promote public trust and confidence in local government.

"I don't know any members of the Jackman Board of Selectmen but it's my hope and my expectation that they will recognize that Mr. Kawcynski cannot continue to hold that office and that they will dismiss him," Mead said.

Zach Heiden of the ACLU of Maine says the First Amendment doesn't protect speech that makes it impossible for someone like Kawcynski to do his job, whether it's supervising women or ensuring there's diversity in the workplace. But Heiden says whatever Kawcynski's fate, there's something else to consider going forward.

Credit Susan Sharon / Maine Public
/
Maine Public
Bishop's Store in Jackman

"The town of Jackman and towns and cities across Maine should do more to affirmatively promote racial justice, and not simply be contented that when somebody gets exposed as having neo Nazi support that they're fired,” said Heiden. “We should really strive to do a little better than that."

Reached by telephone, Kawcynski said he will be at the meeting Tuesday to answer selectmen's questions and reach an amicable decision on what's best for the town.