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Remembering Mac Henry: Paying tribute to Harvard’s longest-serving selectman

According to information in town reports, Mac Henry was elected selectman in 1965 and served until the 1980 election. He ran again in 1984 and remained on the board until the 1990 election, a total of 21 years of service to the town. His tightest race was against Larry Finnegan in 1977, when he won by a margin of seven votes. In the years between 1965 and 1978, he and Mario Barba traded the chairmanship back and forth. In the years between 1985 and 1989 he was chair twice, including in his last year.

The Town Report of 1990 pays tribute to Mac Henry: “This past year saw a momentous changing of the guard when Malcolm Henry retired as a Selectman. For those who served with him, he will undoubtedly be remembered for his swift meetings, his no nonsense approach to Town matters, and his dedication to local government. His years of selfless service to the Town as a Selectman will serve as a benchmark measure for future Selectmen.”

Residents remember

“Mac served many years as a select person and hoped to preserve a three-person select board with no town manager. He asked me to be a candidate for a pending open seat on the board, knowing I supported his agenda. I was narrowly defeated by Dana Owens and shortly thereafter the select board became five persons and the town hired Mr. [John] Petrin as its first executive secretary. After his term expired, Mac and Connie decided to move north to a less population growth environment. Mac was the last of the non-professional-type citizens to govern Harvard. He was a good man.”

—Theodore Maxant, Willard Lane

“In the mid-to-late 1980s, I covered the Board of Selectmen as a reporter for the old Harvard Post. Mac Henry had been a selectman for years and I often disagreed with his views, particularly about the use of herbicides and pesticides, which he held in much higher regard than I did. But I never doubted his deep commitment to the town, or his integrity. He could be abrupt and intimidating at board meetings, but if a reporter or anyone else had a question, he never waffled or failed to give an honest, well-informed answer. He was exceptional in that regard, and I was always grateful for that.”

—Connie Larrabee, Under Pin Hill Road

“One more interesting fact regarding Mac. He made the wooden cross that has been hanging in the Congregational Church for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure he said that he made it from an old bed.”

—Fran Maiore, Woodchuck Hill Road

In a phone conversation, Rick Maiore of Woodchuck Hill Road described Mac Henry as a “towering figure,” “the last of his kind,” and “of a different generation.” He said Mac was even-tempered and easy to get along with, but also a very decisive person. Maiore said in the 1980s things were a “bit of a mess.” The assessors held a lot of power, and they and the treasurer were often fighting with the three selectmen.

After serving as selectman for several terms over the years, Henry decided not to run again in 1990. Maiore, who was on the Planning Board at the time, was elected to replace Henry on the Board of Selectmen. Maiore noted differences between Henry’s last term and his own first term in the early 1990s. The town had taken the significant step of hiring John Petrin as executive secretary to assist the selectmen. For the first time, the selectmen set aside meeting time for public input, and in 1995 the number of selectmen increased from three to five.

Maiore reflected that although there were challenges and controversies during Henry’s times of public service, the structure of town government became increasingly complex in the decades after Henry’s departure in 1990.

David Durrant  of East Bare Hill Road sent a video saying, “I think the townspeople could be made aware of this video I have which shows Mac and other prominent folk who helped make this town what it is.”

From left: Selectmen Mac Henry, Mario Barba, and Lawrence Terry at a 1975 meeting. (Courtesy photo from 1975 Annual Town Report)

—Joan Eliyesil and Connie Larrabee contributed to this compilation. 

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