By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — ROCKPORT — A tick bite has led selectmen to shift roles.
Frances Fleming, who has been fighting Lyme disease, diagnosed in August, stepped down from her chairwoman’s position to remain on the board as a member only.
“I can’t count on how I will feel at any given time and I need to focus on getting healthy,” Fleming said at selectmen’s meeting Tuesday. “If I take a more limited role on the board ... I’ll be able to better serve the board at this time as a member.”
Selectwoman Erin Battistelli, formerly vice chairwoman, moved up to chairwoman and Selectman Paul Murphy is now vice chairman.
Fleming said her doctors expect her to make a full recovery. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of the blacklegged tick. Symptoms include chills, fever, muscle pain, joint swelling, headaches, light-headedness, and skipped heartbeats.
But, in the meantime, Fleming asks that people refrain from calling her home phone number with town business.
“Right now I don’t have the energy to do that, and so I just would prefer not to,” Fleming said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Fleming can still be reached by email, at board meetings or through the board’s office.
Battistelli ran selectmen meetings in August and September and acted as selectmen chairwoman during Town Meeting when Fleming was feeling ill. Though Battistelli said she was willing to take on the role, she and the other selectmen announced Fleming’s position change as unfortunate news.
“I’m sorry about the circumstances that brought you to this decision,” Battistelli said to Fleming.
In a phone interview, Battistelli said of Fleming, “She’s been a terrific chairperson, very focused on the board and what we wanted to accomplish, very fair and very easy to get along with. We’re going to continue enjoying her. And I’m so happy that she feels good enough to remain on the board.”
Fleming, a teacher in past years, extracts a positive in almost any situation, frequently commending hard work and cooperation among residents and applauding the volunteerism necessary to run town boards.
Fleming, first elected selectman in May 2010, will finish her term in May 2013. Fleming was chairwoman of the board in the 2012 term and vice chairwoman in 2011. Fleming said she has not yet decided whether or not she will run for another term come May.
“I am trying not to project too far ahead right now,” Fleming said. “I’m just trying to focus on feeling well. I just have to see how it is.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.