Amanda Orlando Kesterson requested that the City Council send her appointment to sit on the city's Human Rights Commission back for further vetting by the Ordinance & Administration subcommittee.
The City Council unanimously voted to grant Kesterson's request.
"I have consulted with my family, and I think that the best course is to take a pause, and send my appointment back for further vetting at the Ordinance & Administration subcommittee," Kesterson announced at Tuesday's meeting. "The heightened emotion injected into this discussion does not produce good government. And so I ask that you vote tonight to take a pause; to let cooler heads prevail; and move the discussion from emotion to reason."
If appointed, Kesterson will work on the new anti-discrimination board that was revived by Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken last year. Romeo Theken and her staff interviewed and nominated Kesterson for the appointment.
Kesterson had previously been unanimously approved by the Ordinance and Administration subcommittee.
"I volunteered for this appointment when I first read about it in the Gloucester Times last March. I was excited that there was going to be a group like this and I wanted to be a part of it," Kesterson said Tuesday night. "Mostly, I felt it was a good fit because I'm a mother, and our city government has very little representation from parents of school age children."
Those who sit on the Human Rights Commission will advise the mayor on all matters of civil and human rights for all Gloucester citizens. She will also support and assist all city departments, boards and commissions in their efforts to celebrate diversity, promote tolerance and inclusion, and comply with appropriate local, state, and federal laws.
For Kesterson, a lifelong Gloucester resident, she feels that the city has had an under representation of conservatives.
"I also believed that conservatives needed a strong voice on this commission, and that it was important for it to be diverse," she said. "If all the members thought the same way about every issue, then 'all' would not be represented and the group would be meaningless."
An office manager at Orlando & Associates, her family's firm, she sees her appointment as an opportunity to bring a needed voice to the table.
In addition to receiving support from state Republican Party leader Jim Lyons, a former state representative, community members wished her luck prior to the meeting.
"Gloucester would be lucky to have such a smart, reasonable and dedicated woman like Amanda serving its residents. Best of luck!" Brian Genest wrote on Kesterson's Facebook wall prior to Tuesday's meeting.
Not all of Gloucester's community is inclined to agree with Kesterson's appointment, however.
An anonymous guest blogger on gloucesterclam.com urged residents to veto Kesterson's appointment to the Human Rights Commission, while members of the 'Because Gloucester' Facebook page went back and forth about the appointment.
On Monday, the Because Gloucester page was filled with 125 responses to a post about Kesterson's appointment.
While some defended Kesterson by referencing her motherhood and work ethic, other Facebook users criticized her for her promotion of lawmakers who oppose same sex marriage, LBGTQ protection, and women's rights issues.
Kesterson was surprised to read these opinions of her and her stance on a variety of issues.
"Since putting my name forward, I have been accused of being insensitive to the Jewish community; against feeding children; supporting keeping children in cages; and anti-LGBTQ issues," Kesterson said at Tuesday night's meeting. "As I read each email, I was amazed that people who had never met me would have such harsh assessment of me, and further, reading them seems like I was reading about someone else entirely."
She continued, "For the record, and this is very important, my perspective on the Republican party's platform is that it is wrong on the marriage equality issue and all related to it. Love is love, and adults should marry their life partner of their choosing and be unafraid to do so publicly. That is my value system."
Despite the opposition and sharp criticism there, Kesterson feels equipped for the work ahead but would like to take a pause as emotions run high.
"The level of intolerance which has been sent my way has been staggering, but really, it shouldn't have come as a surprise. In some instances, it rises to the level of defamation and malice, which is a legal standard for the reckless disregard of the truth," Kesterson said. "My character and integrity has been attacked without any evidence offered other than rumors and paranoia to substantiate the claims."
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.