Claremont Names 2 To Council
Several Applicants Sought Vacated Seats
Claremont — In split votes Tuesday night, the City Council chose Carolyn Towle and John Simonds to fill vacant council seats until the November election.
Towle, a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee and the Zoning Board of Adjustment, was selected in a 4-3 vote over Francis Gauthier for the Ward I seat vacated by Vic Bergeron, who was elevated to assistant mayor by a council vote earlier this summer following the resignation of Andy Austin.
For the other seat, Simonds, a former city police officer who now works for the county sheriff’s department, received four votes, while former city councilor Robert Picard received three, and former state Rep. Charlene Lovett received one. Simonds was one of five candidates to seek the at-large seat vacated by Tom Burnham, who resigned for unexplained reasons in July.
Prior to the votes, only councilor Chris Irish indicated who he favored — Towle and Simonds — and there was no debate among the councilors on their preferred choices.
The council noted the large field of applicants, thanked them showing an interest in serving and encouraged them to run again in November when all nine council seats are up for election.
“I’m begging you, make sure your name is on the ballot in November,” Irish said. “Your heart is there. You have what this city needs.”
Councilor Kyle Messier said in her years serving the city, Tuesday night was the first time she saw “this many people who understand what we are up against.”
Messier, Irish, Nick Koloski and Keith Raymond voted for Towle, and Vic Bergeron, Roger Formidoni and Mayor James Neilsen favored Gauthier.
Raymond, Koloski, Irish and Bergeron supported Simonds, while Formidoni and Neilsen voted for Picard and Messier for Lovett. The other candidates for the at-large seat were John Hamel and Joel Tremblay.
Prior to the votes, the candidates answered four questions along with giving opening and closing remarks.
Though they had favorable comments about the city and its residents, the candidates said there is a lot of room for improvement. There was general agreement that stabilizing the tax rate, filling vacant buildings, tearing down dilapidated ones and bringing more business to the city are the biggest challenges facing Claremont.
“Bringing industry to town, that would be my number one thing,” Simonds said when asked what his priority would be as a councilor.
Towle, along with Tremblay and others, said getting a tenant for the vacant Lowe’s on Washington Street would be her focus.
Gauthier, a landlord, and Picard, who owns a waste hauling business, both said they see the streets of the city every day and the problems that exists.
“It is shameful,” said Picard. “We need to clean up the city.”
Gauthier wants to work on addressing multi-family housing problems and put more pressure on landlords to rent to tenants who are unlikely to cause trouble.
In her closing comments, Towle said she will bring her experience on other municipal boards and her business background — she was director of operations for Jiffy Mart stores for 25 years — to the council.
Simonds said he will bring “fresh eyes and fresh ears” to the council.
“That is what I hear people want,” he said.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.