For nearly three decades, Bruce Brierley has served the town of Searsmont in various capacities, having spent more than 20 of those years in the role of the first selectman.

At the start of Saturday’s annual town meeting, Moderator Lee Woodward made reference to Brierley’s longstanding presence.

“My understanding is that he’s been continuously elected as the first selectman since 1991,” said Woodward, a notation that generated applause from the residents who had gathered at Searsmont Community Center.

Just before the 10 minute break at the midpoint of the two-plus-hour meeting, Woodward told residents that after Brierley finishes his final three-year term on the Board of Selectman – a post which voters returned him to yet again this year – the veteran town official plans to turn the reigns over to some new blood in town.

But as he began his tribute to the longtime selectman, Woodward could not pass up the opportunity to honor Brierley with a bit of humor.

Woodward said Brierley, who grew up in East Belfast, began his political career early, though it was a rather bumpy beginning.

“He ran for milk money monitor at the East Belfast School, but he lost to somebody who couldn’t count,” said Woodward, a comment that was met with laughter.

Woodward said Brierley was equally unsuccessful in his political endeavors when he lived at the Belfast neighborhood of Dog Island, noting that he ran twice for mayor and lost one race to a prison inmate and the second to “a vagrant living under the Dog Island Bridge.”

A few years later in Swanville, Woodward said, Brierley lost his bid for Animal Control Officer to a man who was afraid of dogs.

In Searsmont, though, Woodward said Brierley found his groove when he saw that fellow town residents George Sprowl and Jenness Robbins were elected to the Planning Board.

But once the laughs were done, Woodward got serious.

“He really is the gold standard in Waldo County for selectmen,” said Woodward.

Woodward then called the voters’ attention to an article about Brierley that ran in The Maine Townsman, the publication put out by the Maine Municipal Association. It was titled “Bruce Brierley: Bringing Out the Best.”

In that article, writer Jeff Clark outlined Brierley’s political career in Searsmont, which began with his election to the Planning Board in 1986. Brierley went on to win the second selectman’s seat in 1989, and by 1991, voters chose him to serve as the town’s first selectman.

Throughout the article, Brierley took pride in all that the town has accomplished in recent years – particularly the construction of the town’s community center, town office and library – a project that was done with all volunteer work and without a dime of debt to the town.

“That just shows what kind of town you have in Searsmont,” said Woodward.

Woodward read aloud a portion of the Townsman article about what Clark learned from his time talking with Brierley, and attested that each of those lessons spoke well to the values that Brierley has adhered to in his many years of service to Searsmont. Those lessons were:

“Pay your own way. Searsmont doesn’t borrow to finance capital projects and major purchases. Instead it relies on saving in capital accounts. Treat people the way you would want them to treat you. Don’t hesitate to ask for volunteers. The Searsmont municipal building and its fire station were built entirely with volunteer labor. Listen to the people around you. They probably know more than you do.”

At that time, Woodward presented Brierley with a framed and enlarged copy of the Townsman article.

State Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, was also on hand to present Brierley with letters of thanks from himself, Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins as well as a flag that had flown over the capitol in Brierley’s honor.

Brierley did not appear to relish the attention, but was visibly grateful for the honors.

“If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be successful,” said Brierley to the audience. “If it weren’t for you, Searsmont wouldn’t be the way it is. I just helped a little bit.”

When the meeting adjourned, Woodward again called attention to Brierley’s service to the town, and voters responded with a standing ovation.

“You’re too generous,” said Brierley.

Reporter Tanya Mitchell can be reached at 338-3333 or at tmitchell@villagesoup.com.