By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — SALISBURY — According to former Selectman Jerry Klima, after nine years on the board, it’s time to pass the torch, but for those who served or worked with Klima, his presence will be missed.
“Jerry’s done a lot for the town,” said Planning Director Lisa Pearson. “I worked with him on a lot of things. I don’t think he’s going to stop working on behalf of the town just because he isn’t a selectman anymore.”
Pearson’s correct. On Tuesday, Klima won a three-year term as town moderator and will be at the podium for the first time at the May 20 Town Meeting. At one of his last selectmen’s meetings, he announced he’s going to continue working on the town’s recreation trail project, hoping to connect and extend it to the state border.
An avid biker, Klima is well known for his rail trail efforts, but according to Pearson, his involvement and energy has helped Salisbury in many ways. Klima was instrumental in the town’s purchase of its water system, she said, as well as a number of rezoning efforts that include the Beach Center and Salisbury Square. He developed the concept and language for Salisbury’s inclusionary housing ordinance, she said, which created a funding mechanism that supports the town’s Affordable Housing Trust. And there’s more.
“Jerry took a lead role on dealing with the (Bridge Road) flooding problem that revolved around Town Creek,” Pearson said.
Over the years, Klima, a retired corporate lawyer, used his legal talents to the town’s advantage.
“Jerry Klima has saved this town so much money in legal fees,” Selectman Henry Richenburg said. “He brought the town his gift of being a lawyer. “
Selectman Donald Beaulieu said it wasn’t that Klima eliminated the need for the town to seek expert legal opinions, for he didn’t. What Klima did that saved money was to review issues and do the legal groundwork before the town took issues to its paid legal experts, he said.
“I think what I found the most impressive about Jerry is that he was always prepared when he came to a meeting,” Beaulieu said. “He’d always done all the reading beforehand. And you couldn’t get him to take action if he didn’t have all the facts that he felt he needed to make an informed decision.”
Beaulieu said Klima’s work on the rail trails, both in Salisbury and in the region, shouldn’t be underestimated. When non-residents use the trails and enjoy them, he said, they spend their money at town businesses.
“I can’t look out my window on Mudnock Road without seeing three or four people making their way to the Old Eastern Marsh Trail,” Beaulieu said.
As happens over many years, not everyone agreed with Klima’s decisions and selectmen didn’t always see eye-to-eye on every issue. But the impact of that didn’t carry outside the meeting rooms, Beaulieu and Richenburg said.
“You were able to agree to disagree (with Klima) and then walk out still friends,” Richenburg said.
Klima agreed that relationships with other board members always remained cordial even when they held differing opinions. His reason for leaving, he said, had to do with his belief that it was time for a change.
“I felt nine years is long enough for one person to serve. It’s time for new voices and new contributors,” Klima said recently. “I thank my fellow selectmen for making these nine years a pleasure.”
Selectman Fred Knowles said that without question, Klima was one of the hardest-working members of the Board of Selectmen.
“He put his heart and soul into the job,” Knowles said.
“I’d like to see more people like Jerry Klima come forward to help the town,” Beaulieu added.