Race is on for Claremont City Council seats
|Published: 11-01-2023 2:09 AM
CLAREMONT — Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau and Ward III Councilor Jonathan Stone are being challenged by two political newcomers in the Nov. 7 City Council elections.
Matteau, who has been on the council for four years, the last two as assistant mayor, will face Brian Zutter, a member of the Arrowhead Recreation Club.
Stone, first elected to the council in 2017, will be on the ballot against Jonathan Hayden, a farmer.
There are also eight candidates seeking four at-large seats while Mayor Dale Girard, Ward I Councilor Andrew O’Hearne and Spencer Batchelder, currently an at-large councilor running in Ward II, face no opposition.
Matteau, 65, is the general manager of a property management company in Claremont with 150 residential units and 40 commercial properties.
Previously, Matteau worked for the city of Claremont in several capacities related to development and zoning, and has also served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, two city manager search committees and the master plan steering committee.
In a prepared statement, Matteau said she is “proud of the accomplishments and progress of the city the last two years including the hiring of an experienced, enthusiastic town manager (Yoshi Manale) who has a promising vision for Claremont.”
If re-elected, Matteau said she will focus on housing, of which there is a shortage in the city, including a lack of quality rentals. She has pushed for programs that would incentivize owner-occupied properties, which in turn would help to clean up blighted areas where rents are high but the properties are in poor condition.
“As a member of the Planning Board, I’ve worked with the Planning Office and Planning Board to try to come up with innovative zoning regulations that will encourage housing developments in the city,” Matteau said.
Privatizing the transfer station operation earlier this year, which Matteau supported, will save the city $100,000 a year, she said.
Stabilizing the tax rate and working on economic development to make the city an attractive place to live, work and invest are also areas Matteau said she will focus on if re-elected.
Zutter, 57, grew up in North Charlestown and lived in Maine before moving back to the area seven years ago. He is the director of data exchange for Spin Systems, based in Virginia.
Zutter, as member of the Arrowhead Recreation Club, strongly supported two new operating agreements between the city and the club and The Wheel House bike shop, which is now leasing spacing in the Arrowhead lodge and is moving its retail location there from the Claremont Junction.
“I wanted to get involved because I want to see Claremont continue to thrive,” Zutter said. “I think the city is on the cusp of some great improvement and I want to be a part of that.”
Zutter said his work experience as a director gives him the tools “in the right areas to help the city move forward.”
One area Zutter said he would focus on is the Claremont Community Center, where membership has dropped to around 1,300 from nearly 6,000 in the spring of 2013, a year after it opened.
“I believe we need to promote it more and get people to use it more,” Zutter said.
Other areas that Zutter said he will focus on are making housing more affordable, the city’s infrastructure, primarily roads, and promoting the city’s parks and natural resources.
“I want to help the city continue to grow and help it thrive,” Zutter said.
Stone, 50, said if re-elected he will continue to be “a strong voice for the city’s property owners.”
“I have been a fiscal conservative on the council,” Stone said.
A priority of Stone’s in the next council would be to decrease the annual operating subsidy for the Claremont Community Center.
The figure is more than $550,000, and Stone, who voted earlier this year to increase the membership rates across the board, would like to see it cut to around $450,000 within a year and try to lower further after that.
Stone, a former Claremont Police officer and part-owner of a firearms store on Washington Street, also lists housing as a focus if re-elected, particularly more housing for veterans.
“I am going to continue to prioritize infrastructure,” said Stone, adding that he believes money can be found in the budget without raising taxes for road repairs.
“I hope voters see that I have a well-documented record of conservative voting,” he said. “I look out for the taxpayer and support sound financial decision-making.”
Hayden, who owns a small farm on Winter Street, briefly introduced himself at the last council meeting.
“I stand for a diverse community of voices treating each member of the community with respect so we can continue to move forward in building a thriving Claremont,” said Hayden, 37. “I’m for building a thriving downtown economy, responsible fiscal spending and restoring our housing stock and creating healthy homes.”
Hayden, treasurer of the Claremont Growers Collective, which includes farmers, gardeners and local food advocates in the Claremont area, said last week that he was encouraged to run by several people who are involved in the collective.
“They told me they wanted someone else to run for Ward III, and I think having contested elections makes for a healthier democracy,” Hayden said.
Voting in the Claremont City Council elections is Tuesday, Nov. 7:
■Ward I and Ward II: Claremont Middle School, South Street, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
■Ward III: Disnard Elementary School, Hanover Street, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.