Whip Saltmarsh

They don’t make politicians like Whip Saltmarsh anymore. Sherman W. “Whip” Saltmarsh Jr., who represented Winchester in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1974-’89, was a throwback to a time when legislators were not especially interested in ideology and instead devoted their attention to helping their communities and constituents. He died last Thursday at 94.

I got to know Whip when I was covering Winchester for The Daily Times Chronicle in the early 1980s. He was a regular presence at selectmen’s meetings (today the select board), updating local officials about what was taking place on Beacon Hill and asking what he could do to make their jobs easier. He was an old-fashioned Yankee Republican; although he was conservative about spending and taxes, it is impossible to imagine him getting caught up in the performative extremism that passes for Republican politics these days. He had a voice like a trumpet, and several of us used to do newsroom imitations of him bellowing, “I have filed legislation!”

A tribute posted by the Lane Funeral Home puts it well:

Whip’s mantra was always “betterment of the community and giving back” and he embodied the true definition of leader, albeit a not so quiet one. Whip’s leadership ability stemmed from his ability to be an intent listener; he didn’t always agree with someone’s opinion, but he always tried to come up with the best resolution for all. Whip was the “go to” person and arguably the Town of Winchester’s patriarch. Whip had a solution for every problem, whether the issue was obtaining legislation for a revitalization project or improving the wrist shot of one of his grandchildren.

Whip’s long life was filled with accomplishments, including serving as the town’s youngest chair of the board of selectmen — and at that time the youngest in the state. He was a star hockey player at Winchester High School and Boston College, served in the Navy, was named to the Olympic hockey team (but did not play because of injury), and was a member of the auxiliary fire department. He also founded his own insurance agency, and, after he’d left the Statehouse and I’d left the Times Chronicle, he became our insurance agent, providing outstanding, caring service for what I’m guessing was 25 to 30 years. My best wishes go out to his family, his friends and his employees.

Whip was a legend, and he’ll be greatly missed.

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