An Appreciation: Robert Kenney

March 29, 2019

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

Robert Kenney served the Town of Bedford as a member of the Finance Committee for 29 years, from 1985 through 2014. It is believed that Mr. Kenney’s service is among the longest on the board. Current Finance Committee chair Ben Thomas with former FinCom members Barbara Perry, Walter St. Onge, John Linz, and Jerry Pfeiffer, as well as former director of the Bedford Free Public Library and FinCom member Meredith McCulloch, shared their thoughts for this remembrance

A clear and forceful speaker, Mr. Kenney could be intimidating to presenters bringing budgets that hadn’t been fully thought through. “He was expert at separating “wishful thinking” from true merit,” noted John Linz, who went on to say that the scrutiny could be uncomfortable. In the end, however, presenters typically returned with solid facts and the rationale behind their proposals.  “A fiscal conservative and a natural skeptic, Bob was a strong defender of a fiscally responsible Bedford,” Linz added. “I think we both learned from each other, and we learned a lot. But most of all, we learned to respect each other even when we disagreed.”

Barbara Perry agreed, “Outspoken on budget issues, Mr. Kenney was a gentleman when putting budget discussions aside.” She also recalled his dedication to the Shawsheen Regional Technical High School and its programs. “He faithfully kept the Finance Committee informed of the school’s programmatic changes and capital plans, the reasons behind them, and the impact on Bedford’s budget obligations for the school.”

Mr. Kenney’s pronouncements were offered with such conviction recalled Jerry Pfeiffer, “that you almost always wanted to agree with him, even if you didn’t.” Pfeiffer added that Mr. Kenney’s 29-year FinCom tenure is a clear indication of “someone truly concerned for the welfare of his Town.”

“I know he would always step up and was willing to cover a budget or department that no one else wanted, for whatever reason,” said Walter St. Onge. “He even served as Clerk from time to time, though I have to admit it wasn’t his best contribution, given how the minutes sometimes turned out.”  St. Onge went on to say, “Bob also had the right perspective on things. He had his own opinions, but listened to others, even if he didn’t always agree.”

As a new Finance Committee member, Ben Thomas felt fortunate to be seated beside Mr. Kenney.  “He was incredibly helpful and took the time to explain concepts, issues, expectations, and norms to me. [He was] always friendly, always nice, always helpful.” Thomas grew to understand Mr. Kenney’s feeling that FinCom members are on the board, “to have, express and discuss points of view and opinions. That it isn’t a spectator position.”

Knowing Mr. Kenney both as the director of the Bedford Free Public Library as well as a FinCom colleague, Meredith McCulloch added, “”We often disagreed philosophically, but he was always courteous and friendly and greeted me with a smile.  I shall miss him.”

John Linz concluded that Mr. Kenney’s legacy is in his skepticism, his tenacity, his ability to separate “wishful thinking” from true merit, his ability to mold these attributes into fiscally responsible proposals that align with town goals, and his talent for realizing that individuals are separate from their opinions. “Bob will be missed, but his legacy can live on in the manner the town aligns its goals with its fiscal responsibility.” said Linz.”A worthy continuing challenge for our FINCOM!”

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