As the mayor of Rockland, I reached out to Mayor Paradis shortly after she was elected because I knew she was in for a rough time. She is a change agent, a reformer and they are never welcomed by those who hold power. I am writing today for the same reason.

Samantha was elected a year ago as the youngest mayor in Maine.  She was elected by the citizens of a progressive town but a town run by a small group of people who have held their positions for many years.

Maine and the nation are seeing a huge influx of young progressives, mostly women, running for elected office. The next story is what happens to them when they join a group of baby boomers who are not ready to give up power and who often look at life through a very different lens.

In Samantha’s case, she is discovering they do not share power easily. As a millennial, ardent environmentalist, a renter, struggling to earn a living while going to school full time, her perspective is foreign and unfortunately, unwelcome. Sadly, this unprecedented act of attempting to silence the mayor is just one in a long list of reactions to her election.

We have many rituals in our country for how power is handed over; it has been one of the things that makes our democracy strong. In Samantha’s case, those rituals were not followed. The former mayor refused to call her and concede. He did not attend her swearing-in ceremony.

Traditionally, the new mayor honors the old and, along with council, gives him or her a plaque honoring their service. Instead, the council asked that Samantha not come to the first meeting, so they could do this without her. From the very beginning of her service, she was made to feel unwelcome.

In Rockland, we hold tight and formal meetings, typically lasting two to three hours. If a councilor needs to step down or the meeting has gone on for over two hours, the mayor calls for a recess. The meeting is not continued until all councilors return.

In Belfast, council meetings typically last five or more hours and are much more casual. Councilors get up to take a call, use the bathroom, get something to drink at will, with no pause in the meeting. But the mayor leads the meeting; she cannot step down. So she gets to be uncomfortable and they get to suggest that she is treating them like school children when she proposes adding breaks that would allow her to also use the bathroom or stretch her legs.

When a councilor on a first meeting with Samantha says you have done nothing to earn my respect, when the city manager tells the new mayor he is too busy to meet with her, when the city attorney meets behind the scenes with two councilors to find a way to remove the ability of the mayor to speak at council meetings, you know the system is in full revolt against change.

Samantha was better prepared than most to run for City Council. She has been part of the Mitchell Institute for Young  Leaders and did the Emerge Maine training. She was already a national speaker when she ran. She knew it would not be easy, but thought the norms and processes would hold.

I think what has happened here is tragic and does not bode well for Belfast, Maine or the nation. This generation’s skills, talents and ways of seeing the world need to be welcomed in. They are ardent, impatient reformers. They see a burning world, with rising sea levels, the worst  income inequality in our nation’s history and injustice for the  marginalized. They are unwilling to be silent and unwilling to wait their turn because they feel an urgency to act.

Can we truly disagree?

I ask us all to step back from this piling on. The citizens of Belfast voted in a change agent for a reason. I ask the Belfast City Council and city administrators to pause and think deeply about how to welcome that change. I ask my generation to be humble, welcoming and kind to a generation that will need to fix that which we have failed to fix. I know Samantha Paradis would more than meet us halfway.

Valli Geiger is a Rockland city councilor and former mayor of Rockland.