Last week with the death of former Falmouth Selectman Virginia Valiela, I lost a role model, and the Cape lost a great public servant and environmental champion. Virginia was the type of person we need more of in the world. Intelligent, dignified, good humored, humble, and approachable, Virginia was an exceptional practitioner of the fine art of the possible, increasingly rare these days. Because she had a solid moral compass, was grounded in fact and science, was engaging, and always strove for what was right, Virginia had a knack for bringing people together to solve problems.
To my great admiration, Virginia placed more emphasis on getting the answer right than getting credit for the right answer. To me, that was her genius. She could see the right resolution of an issue, but rather than try to drag people to what she saw as the answer, she used her consensus building skills to allow people to find the answer. She did it most recently on water quality in Falmouth and deserves great credit for ensuring that historic contamination of the groundwater at Joint Base Cape Cod was cleaned up.
A good neighbor and community spirited person, she, and then Falmouth Water Superintendent Nate Ellis, were largely responsible for the town of Falmouth quickly extending public water supply to the Briarwood neighborhood of Mashpee when private wells were contaminated by the base in the 1980s. Then in my first term as a Mashpee selectman, I was so grateful that we had a selectman in another town to help us. Virginia had what Mashpee needed at the time, clean and potable water, expertise, and the willingness to share and help. But that was Virginia, and I am quite sure there are hundreds of such stories and examples of her selfless leadership that can and have been told this last week.
Anyone on Cape Cod who values a clean environment and dedicated public services is better for the work Virginia committed herself to. It was on honor and pleasure to work with her, and my only regret is it ended too soon.