Longtime Hanover Selectboard chair gets budget win, but loses seat at Town Meeting


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2023 10:01 PM

HANOVER — For Town Meeting on Tuesday, Selectboard Chairman Peter Christie had prepared, in his words, “a brilliant and insightful” presentation of the proposed operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

But as the meeting approached 10 p.m. and fatigue had visibly overtaken the remaining voters in attendance, Christie opted not to deliver it.

“This is dangerous, but given the eyes I see in front of me, if someone would like to move the question, I would not be offended,” Christie told the public.

Unknown at the time, this would be Christie’s last budget presentation at Town Meeting as the Selectboard’s longtime leader.

After the budget vote — which attendees passed by a show of hands, 56-10 — Town Moderator Jeremy Eggleton announced the results for the Selectboard election, where three candidates, including Christie, were vying to fill two vacant seats.

Christie, who was seeking his eight consecutive Selectboard term, finished third with 427 votes.

“It was a shock,” Selectboard member Nancy Carter said after the meeting. She called Christie’s defeat a significant loss to Hanover’s municipal governance.

After the results were announced, Christie, who has served 21 years on the Selectboard and 11 years as its chairman, received standing applause from the community before addressing the public a final time.

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“Obviously, it’s time for a changing of the guard,” Christie told the public. “I just want to give my appreciation and thanks for the privilege of working for the town over these years. It has truly been my pleasure, and we will move forward.”

The newly elected Selectboard members are Carey Callaghan, who is vice chairman of the town Finance Committee, and Jennie Chamberlain, chairwoman of the town’s Bike Walk Committee, who received 596 votes and 545 votes, respectively.

In a statement to the Valley News, Callaghan thanked Christie and outgoing board member Bill Geraghty — who did not seek reelection — for their years of service to help make Hanover a desirable place to live and work.

“It is an honor to serve this vibrant and engaged community, (and) it is also humbling, in part because of the ‘shoes’ left behind by so many hard-working and talented Selectboard members, shoes I can only aspire to fill,” Callaghan said.

The Valley News was unable to reach Chamberlain for comment.

Addressing voters after the election results were announced, Selectboard vice chairman Athos Rassias was visibly emotional as he expressed his gratitude to Christie for his years of service, leadership and friendship.

“I have learned so much from Peter about how to appropriately govern, how to appropriately lead and how to appropriately conduct business in a fair and orderly manner,” Rassias said.

Rassias called Christie a “visionary” and “compassionate” leader who was dedicated to moving Hanover in the direction desired by the community and governing in the most “fair and equitable fashion possible.”

Christie’s Selectboard tenure is comparable in length to that of former Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin, who retired in 2022 after 25 years of service. Griffin, who was succeeded last year by Alex Torpey, played a central role in modernizing Hanover’s municipal operations, including creating a human resources position and expanding the planning and zoning department.

Voters approved all 33 articles on the warrant, including seven zoning amendment proposals that were placed on the election ballot and 26 articles voted on at the business meeting.

Of the approximately 152 voters who attended the business meeting, about half the attendees departed before the vote on the $28.5 million operating budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1.

It took 90 minutes for voters to get through the first nine articles at the business meeting, due to lengthy deliberations and numerous efforts to make amendments to the questions, the majority of which were defeated.

Voters, by Australian ballot, passed three bond proposals with over a three-fifth majority, including $22 million for a new wastewater treatment facility, $7.8 million for water infrastructure upgrades and $1.2 million for a new fire engine.

In a voice vote, attendees also authorized the town to transfer 5 acres of the former Leavitt property on Greensboro Road to a nonprofit housing developer for the creation of workforce housing.

Voters approved a new rental housing ordinance that will require all rental dwellings to pass a health and safety inspection before being issued an occupancy permit.

As the meeting entered late evening and less than 100 voters remained, elected officials sought to quicken the pace.

On two occasions they proposed combining similar articles into a single vote, which voters supported doing. One vote consolidated three collective bargaining agreements with town employees. A second vote consolidated three articles appropriating money from the unassigned fund balance to designated funds for conserving or improving land.

Some residents expressed displeasure when voters moved to vote on the operating budget proposal without a public discussion.

“Shameful,” called out resident Jeff Acker, who voted in the minority against the budget proposal.

Board members told the Valley News afterward that the meeting went considerably longer than most years due to the number of articles on this year’s warrant.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.