Morrill residents cast their ballots on Election Day, as many in the small community mourned the death of longtime First Selectman Tom Flacke. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

MORRILL, Maine — On Election Day, residents of Morrill are mourning the death of First Selectman Tom Flacke, a stalwart community presence who died this week from COVID-19, according to town officials.

“We are all heartbroken over the loss of this wonderful man and are grieving for his family,” a town office staff member posted on the town’s Facebook page. “Tom’s years of service to this community was a gift from which the town has greatly benefited. He will be missed.”

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that the death was “indirectly” linked to an outbreak in Waldo County that started at Brooks Pentecostal Church.

The town office was closed for the past two weeks in October after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Other staff members and officials who worked in the office initially tested negative, according to the town, but were told to quarantine for two weeks in case symptoms later developed. Last week, Flacke was admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms, according to town officials, and died on Sunday.

Flacke had served as the town’s first selectman for more than 10 years and was in his late 70s, according to Second Selectman Randy Place.

“Tom was a really good guy. We all worked together pretty equally, and we were a good team,” Place said. “We’re really sad that we lost him. He left a big hole.”

Joyce Scott, the Morrill bookkeeper who had been friends with Flacke for 40 years, said he was a “huge personality.”

“He was a natural leader,” she said. “He held the space for leadership.”

Flacke was a tall, big man who could seem imposing at first, at least until a person began talking to him, the second selectman said.

“People thought he was intimidating, but he really wasn’t,” Place said. “He was always interested in people’s concerns … and he had a jolly way about him.”

That friendliness is something that Jim Greeley, a sergeant with the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office who grew up in Morrill, remembered as special.

“I always liked talking to him, because of that sense of humor that he had,” the sergeant said. “We had a lot of spirited discussions, and it was always a good-hearted conversation.”

Sometimes during those talks, they found they were on the opposite side of the political spectrum. But it didn’t matter. Flacke’s kindness and humor helped ease any philosophical disagreement.

“You’ve got a person who even with an opposing point of view can listen to what you have to say and have a reasonable conversation,” Greeley said. “He was a heck of a nice guy.”

Over the past several years, Flacke contended with some medical challenges, according to the second selectman. But he had begun to turn a corner, he said, and recently helped oversee a renovation of the town office.

“Over the last six months he started feeling a lot better,” Place said. “We lost someone who was really special to the town.”