Groton — Town Councilor Frank O'Beirne Jr., more popularly known as Mick, relinquished his seat on the Town Council with the adjournment of Tuesday night's council meeting.
"The last 18 months my hearing has deteriorated significantly. Even with the best technology, I am missing some of what is being said (and) asked on the issues by other Councilors, staff and the public," O'Beirne said in an email he sent Monday to his eight fellow councilors. "To then vote on the issues is wrong. Accordingly, I am stepping aside."
O'Beirne said he has tried several solutions, but none has worked.
"I've had to ask to have motions repeated so I can understand them," he said Tuesday morning in an interview at his Mystic home. "I'm really didn't want to make a mistake. I decided to step aside."
O'Beirne has been on the council since 1993. Only Harry Watson, who has been on the council since December 1990, has served longer.
"I survived 10 elections," O'Beirne, a retired Navy captain, said Tuesday morning. "I got into this in 1993, the year of the second BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure)."
O'Beirne's political career began when he got involved with the efforts to keep the submarine base open and its vessels homeported in Groton.
"A friend suggested that with my newfound name recognition, I get involved with politics," he said. "So I did, not really knowing what I was doing."
He doesn't consider himself a politician. Rather, he said, he is a representative of the taxpayers.
"That's a good thing about our council," he continued." It's a group of individuals with very different thoughts and ideas, but all with Groton's best interest in their view. Each one believes they are doing what is best for the town."
And though he doesn't consider himself a mentor, O'Beirne has become one.
"I really value, and look up to, his knowledge," Councilor Deborah Peruzzotti said. "He's balanced, smart and intuitive. That he's Republican and I'm a Democrat doesn't matter. He is going to be truly missed. I'm truly crushed by this."
Councilor Bruce Flax also considered O'Beirne a mentor.
"I find him to be a wealth of knowledge," Flax said. "Although we don't always agree, I almost always wait to hear what he has to say before I make a decision. It's a big hit to the council that he's stepping down."
"I'm going to miss him a lot," Watson said. "He's been a faithful town councilor for 19 years."
Mayor Heather Bond Somers called him "irreplaceable" following O'Beirne's final meeting.
"I'm very sad," she said. "He's not leaving to do other things. I wish it was something different. It's bittersweet."
Shawn Greeley, the audio technician at the council meeting, outfitted O'Beirne with a new device Tuesday that was a third attempt to allow the councilor to hear the proceedings.
"It was better, but not good enough," O'Beirne said after the meting. "I appreciate the effort you've made the past three months. It's just not acceptable to me to work under these conditions. Thank you for trying."
Earlier in the meeting, O'Beirne thanked the council and the public with composure he struggled to maintain.
"Thank all of you, and your predecessors and staff for your support over the years," he said.