IPSWICH — As a selectman, Pat McNally said he loves to debate town issues.
“The best part for me is we can argue and fight about issues,” he said, “but at the end of the day we can walk out of the meeting and talk about our families and other issues in town and still be friends.”
But this week, after 24 years on the board, McNally announced he will not be seeking re-election for what would be his ninth three-year term.
McNally, 66, of Little Neck Road, said he didn’t make the decision lightly.
“My term is up in May,” he said. “I look back at the accomplishments in the last 24 years, and most of the big issues have been dealt with and decided.”
McNally said he will continue his work as a lawyer and spend more time with his family. He has three grown daughters and three grandchildren.
Interested candidates have until April 1 to return 50 valid signatures to run for the open seat. So far, no one has returned papers, according to Town Clerk Pam Carakatsane.
Selectman Bill Craft, who has been on the board for two terms, said McNally has been an outspoken advocate for many issues in town, including development and open space.
“He is a lawyer, and frequently, that body of knowledge was helpful for making decisions,” Craft said. He said McNally also offered an institutional memory throughout the years.
“He has been there for the town,” Craft said. “When we are looking at how we got where we are, more than often, Pat was there.”
Town Manager Robin Crosbie said McNally has been effective in communicating his ideas and opinions at meetings. “I find him to have a wealth of history and perspective on the town and many of the projects and initiatives the town has undertaken,” she said.
Before becoming a selectman, McNally spent eight years on the Planning Board — a combined 32 years of service to the town. He said his parents instilled in him the value of public service.
“There were things to do,” he said of staying involved all those years. “Sometimes, you’ve got to be in there for the long run.”
He said a major focus for him has been open space and the environment. The town now has more than 50 percent of land designated as open space, he said.
He was also instrumental in the cleanup of Ipswich River, recycling initiatives and the installation of two wind turbines at the end of Town Farm Road.
McNally often worked on major issues quietly, said former Selectman Ray Morley, who served with McNally for three years.
“He has been a mover and leader behind a lot of the things happening,” Morley said. “He just knows the facts. He is a smart man and dedicated to the town.”
The board is currently facing a number of issues, including a proposed new $17.4 million public safety building on Elm Street and possibly buying land on Great Neck previously used as a testing and research facility for the Air Force.
He is opposed to the public safety building, saying it’s too pricey, but supports the possible land purchase.
“I’d love to see that preserved so it wouldn’t be built on like the rest of Great Neck,” he said, noting it could be a good location for playing fields.
Morley said the town will miss McNally’s leadership.
“He is not going away,” Morley said. “He’ll be in the background watching things.”
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.