What’s worse than a Zoom meeting that lasts more than three hours?

A Zoom meeting that lasts more than three hours and is dominated by a guy in love with the sound of his own voice.

Wednesday evening, for reasons best left to a therapist, I tuned in to the Androscoggin County Commission’s virtual meeting – held online to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.

Like the 100 or so others who logged in, I wanted to see how far the seven-member commission planned to go with a resolution that would have declared Gov. Janet Mills’ statewide mask mandate void and left mask wearing to the “conscience and preference” of anyone who lives in or ventures into Androscoggin County.

Thankfully, the resolution went nowhere – only Commissioner Isaiah Lary voted for it. Which, to anyone interested in staying healthy during these perilous times, was a good thing.

But beyond the vote, Wednesday’s marathon session was a study in what happens when the debate over mask wearing and other COVID-19 safety measures is hijacked by one person with a big agenda, an even bigger ego and a minuscule capacity for working well with others.


Also known as Commissioner Lary. If this wasn’t a serious meeting about weighty issues, I’d have sworn I was tuned to Comedy Central.

Take, for example, the routine review and approval of the warrants – an item at the top of most meeting agendas that basically means paying the bills.

Six commissioners voted yes. Inexplicably, Lary voted no.

A short time later, the commission took up the anti-mask resolution, which had been tabled from its last in-person meeting on Feb. 8. Well aware that hours of heated public comment on the measure had ended during that session, Lary introduced a motion to suspend the commission’s bylaws and let any member of the public speak about any issue at any time.

“Who’s going to give me a second and stand with the public on this and let them have their free speech that the governor has denied them?” Lary asked.

Dead silence.


Next came the mute-button fiasco.

As Lary launched into a dissertation about why the commission should take Mills to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, his audio suddenly went dead.

“Isaiah, unmute your mute,” Commissioner John Michael advised.

“Unmute yourself,” echoed Commissioner Terri Kelly as the silence dragged on.

“It says the host muted me!” protested an agitated Lary when his audio finally returned. “I did not mute myself! The host muted me – per what it said on my screen!”

Not true, said the off-camera meeting facilitator.


“It’s happening on your end,” replied Chairwoman Sally Christner, who deserves a medal for her patience throughout the marathon meeting.

And so it went.

The motion to declare Androscoggin County mask-free eventually went down on a 6-1 vote, with all but Lary opposed.

Then came a proposal, requested by the county employees, to tighten safety protocols for visitors to the county offices. After more than two hours of public comment, almost all from anti-maskers who picked up where they’d left off at the last meeting, the commission voted to table the measure until provisions were added for people unable to wear masks because of medical conditions.

Throughout it all, there was Lary, talking over people, introducing motions that died for lack of a second, interrupting ad nauseam with the phrases like “Madam Chair!” and “Point of order!”

Two takeaways here.


First, if you’re wondering why the anti-mask movement seems to gain so much traction these days in primarily rural parts of Maine, look no further than guys like Lary. Rather than study the science and calmly explain to his constituents why all those conspiracy theories out there simply aren’t true, he fuels their fears with unfounded claims of government misconduct and fact-free assertions that this rule or that requirement is nothing short of unconstitutional.

Second, pandemic or no pandemic, embedding someone like Lary in county government is like pouring sand into a car’s fuel tank. Without drastic remedial action, things eventually will grind to a halt.

Which brings us to the recall drive.

Last week, Kiernan Majerus-Collins, a member of the county budget committee and the Lewiston School Committee, announced an effort to recall Commissioners Lary, John Michael and Brian Ames for their apparent support of anti-mask measures during the commission’s Feb. 8 meeting.

Contacted Thursday, Majerus-Collins said the recall will no longer target Michael and Ames because they ultimately rejected the anti-mark proposal.

Lary, however, is another matter – Majerus-Collins said the attempt to oust him will go on.


A little history: Lary, a Republican, recently began his second term representing Androscoggin County’s District 4, which encompasses the conservative-leaning towns of Lisbon, Sabattus and Wales. Both last fall and in 2016, he ran for the county commission unopposed.

That could mean District 4 is Isaiah Lary country. Or it could mean that politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum – leave a position open long enough and someone, well-suited or not, will fill it.

Majerus-Collins, a member of the Maine Democratic State Committee, strongly doubts Lary’s support extends all that far beyond the 100 or so folks who cheered him on in the Zoom chat box throughout Wednesday’s meeting.

“If I were a Republican, I certainly wouldn’t want Isaiah Lary as the face of my party in Androscoggin County,” he said.

Still, the recall effort won’t be easy. Organizers must gather just over 900 voter signatures in District 4 – 10 percent of the turnout in the last election – to force a recall election. And because a commissioner can’t be recalled sooner than 90 days after the start of his current term – Lary’s began at the start of the year – the soonest the recall effort could begin is April 1.

“So this is not by any means a quick process,” Majerus-Collins said. “But (Lary) clearly is not going to change his habits – and I think there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with him in the county.”


I emailed Lary to request an interview but by Thursday evening received no response.

I wanted to talk about COVID-19, his conduct at the meeting and the looming effort to remove him from office. I was also curious about why, when the motion to adjourn Wednesday’s meeting mercifully arrived after 3 hours and 9 minutes, he actually voted no.

But most of all, I wanted to ask Lary’s reaction to the supporter who claimed, late in the meeting, that the human lung is an “excretory organ” and that masks actually trap the coronavirus inside our bodies rather than allow our lungs to get rid of it.

“Really,” the guy said. “Think about that!”

I’m trying, Bub. But it’s making my head hurt.

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