Jim Kenyon: These are the questions

  • Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Columnist
Published: 5/4/2021 8:53:58 PM
Modified: 5/4/2021 8:53:56 PM

A few burning questions while waiting to see what happens first: The Red Sox returning to earth after what has started out as a surprisingly promising season or Hanover lifting its outdoor mask requirement.

What of Guy Scaife, former Thetford town manager?

Scaife is a finalist for the city administrator’s job in Willmar, Minn.

The West Central Tribune, the newspaper that covers Willmar, reported last week that Scaife was among five finalists (one has already dropped out) selected from a field of 15 candidates.

I admit the news caught me off guard.

It was only last August — after eight months on the job and two months after signing a three-year contract that paid $96,000 annually — that Scaife announced he was leaving Thetford for Iowa to be closer to family.

But apparently not too close.

Willmar, which has a population of around 20,000, is not exactly within commuting distance of Bettendorf, Iowa, where Scaife currently resides. The two communities in the bordering states are about 350 miles apart.

The Willmar City Council was scheduled to start interviewing finalists on Tuesday. Interviews for the city’s top job are open to the public.

That’s quite a contrast from Thetford, where the Selectboard met privately with Scaife on a couple of occasions before announcing his hiring in January 2020 without interviewing anyone else for the job.

Why the secrecy in Lebanon?

Last week, the Lebanon School Board held a “non-public meeting” with one of its attorneys, Jim O’Shaughnessy, who works for the Drummond Woodsum law firm in Manchester.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that O’Shaughnessy, who charges $280 an hour, was asked to weigh in on the potential ramifications of the board eliminating the school resource officer’s position.

It would be helpful for the public to know what O’Shaughnessy gave for legal advice. The more people are informed on the issue, the better. Not to mention — but I will — taxpayers are footing the bill for O’Shaughnessy’s services.

But under New Hampshire’s public meetings law, “consultation with legal counsel” can be kept secret. Elected officials don’t even have to disclose how long the meeting lasted or post any minutes that give a general description of the matter they discussed.

When I asked School Board Chairman Dick Milius whether O’Shaughnessy had talked about the school resource officer’s position, he politely said it was something he could “neither confirm nor deny.”

I don’t fault Milius. He’s in a tough spot. The debate over continuing to spend $120,000 annually for an armed cop to patrol school hallways has deeply divided the community. Whatever the nine-member board decides there’s bound to be a lot of unhappy people.

Still the public deserves to know the particulars of the legal advice that board members are getting and how much it plays into their decision-making — ahead of, and not after, the vote scheduled for May 12.

What’s the key to reaching 100?

“The only reason I’m here today is because I’ve had a very active life,” Warren Williams, of South Royalton, told me. “People who sit around don’t last too long.”

Williams hit the century mark last Thursday.

He enjoys nothing more than cutting logs at his son Dale’s sawmill, across the road from his house on Happy Hollow Road. “(Dale) gets the logs and I run the saw,” Williams said. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

A few years ago around Memorial Day, I wrote about Williams, who seemed to epitomize the dwindling “Greatest Generation.”

The oldest son of a truck driver and homemaker, Williams grew up on Long Island when that part of New York was still farm country. He was seven when his parents gave him the daily chore of feeding the family’s sole milking cow.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Williams said he was among a lot of “young fellas (who) wanted to get in” on the action.

At age 23, on New Year’s Day 1945, Williams arrived at Hanchung Airfield in central China.

When Japan invaded China in 1937 much of the Chinese air force had been destroyed. Two years later, the U.S. and Chinese governments joined forces to keep the Japanese at bay, a deal that was still going when Williams reported for duty.

In China, Williams flew 28 missions as part of a B-25 bombing crew that targeted bridges, railroad yards and ammunition dumps. “I just wanted to do my part for my country,” Williams told me in 2018.

About 325,000 of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II were still alive in 2020, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics. Williams was among 800 or so in Vermont.

Last Saturday, Williams’ family and friends held an outdoor party, with barbecue chicken, two cakes and a bonfire, to celebrate his milestone.

“It was quite a blowout,” Williams said.

Mask up, but for how long?

Mask mandates are set to expire in many New Hampshire communities in June. The Lebanon City Council will meet Wednesday and may continue its mask ordinance until June 30.

It could be a while, however, before Hanover follows suit, according to Town Manager Julia Griffin. “My current thinking is that we will choose to leave (the mask requirement) in place until we see the Upper Valley and New England, at the very least, reach herd immunity levels of vaccination,” Griffin told me via email.

I think that’s Griffin’s way of saying the Sox pitching needs to hold up past the All-Star Game break.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.

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