Hanover ready for a 3-way Selectboard race at Town Meeting

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-04-2023 6:17 PM

HANOVER — An elected official with 21 years in office is running against two political newcomers to fill two open Selectboard seats at Town Meeting on Tuesday.

Voters will elect two candidates to serve three-year terms. Selectboard Chairman Peter Christie, who has served since 2002, is seeking reelection to his eighth term on the board. Challenging him are Carey Callaghan and Jennie Chamberlain.

Board member Bill Geraghty is not seeking reelection, creating a opening.

Each candidate provided written responses to questions posed by the Valley News.

Callaghan, 62, is an investment executive and currently vice-chairman of the town Finance Committee. He also served 12 years on SAU 70 school boards.

Callaghan said those experiences helped him become more patient, a better listener and a consensus-builder.

“The wheels of government can sometimes seem to move slowly, but soliciting and incorporating public input is vital not only to making better decisions, but also to better outcomes during implementation,” Callaghan said. “Seemingly mundane processes, such as those that yield transparency in decision-making or implementing and then following sound policies, are fundamental to good government.”

Callaghan stressed the importance of “sustainable” budgeting while still providing quality town services and continuing to attract and retain “the best available professionals across our departments.”

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Speaking to the town’s finances, Callaghan expressed some concerns about the town’s proposed budget for next fiscal year. The $32 million spending plan would increase the municipal tax rate by 6.5%. Callaghan noted that this proposal allocates over $500,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to avoid further tax impact.

“This is not sustainable,” Callaghan said. “We need to close this deficit while also funding needed investments in infrastructure and personnel and facing high inflation across the board. Further, capital accounts in which we have set money aside in past years are seeing their purchasing power erode in the face of especially high price increases for capital equipment, such as fire trucks, and for construction labor and materials. This too needs to be addressed.”

Callaghan also emphasized making Hanover more accessible to a diverse population, from across the economic and age spectrum.

“Whatever we can do to make Hanover work better for our student population, young families, seniors and veterans will make us stronger,” Callaghan said. “Welcoming immigrants and people of all faiths and backgrounds will help to make our town more diverse, more interesting and ultimately more dynamic.”

Chamberlain, 52, is a Dartmouth College faculty member in the film and media department and serves as chairwoman of the Hanover Bike Walk Committee. She is also a Hanover town representative on the Upper Valley and Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission.

Chamberlain, a longtime proponent of grassroots advocacy and community health issues, said she hopes to “create a Hanover that works for everyone and improves everyone’s quality of life.”

“I have learned how important it is to create frameworks designed to encourage broader participation and harness a diverse range of creative ideas and energy,” Chamberlain explained.

Chamberlain also noted her ability to ask good questions, foresee challenges and to maintain clarity about budgets, town goals and deadlines.

Sustainable housing and transportation are among Chamberlain’s two biggest town priorities.

“Without better housing options Hanover loses out,” Chamberlain said. “We not only lose part of our tax base, our local businesses and institutions lose out because they depend on recruiting people into Hanover.”

Increasing housing should include working with Dartmouth College to enable student housing growth “in town,” as opposed to in Lebanon, Chamberlain said, referring to Summit on Juniper, a 300-unit residential complex for Dartmouth students.

Providing better public transit options, Chamberlain said, is not only needed environmentally — close to 50% of New Hampshire greenhouse gas emissions are related to transportation — but for the 12% of Hanover households that do not own a vehicle.

Christie, who has been chairman the board since 2011, equated his chairman responsibilities to “keeping many balls in the air and moving steadily on many fronts.”

The longtime elected official begins each Selectboard meeting by stating, “We are here tonight to have some fun and do good work for the town.”

“I try to keep our meetings light and fun for all, even when discussing difficult issues,” Christie said. “I believe maintaining this culture is critical to our success as we move forward.”

Hanover, while being a wealthy community, faces similar challenges to other Upper Valley towns, Christie noted. There is a high need for workforce housing. Rising living costs and consumer inflation drive elected officials to strike a difficult budget balance between fiscal responsibility and preserving quality town services.

Christie said he also prioritizes attracting and retaining staff.

The town is still helping in the transition of new Town Manager Alex Torpey, who was hired last year to succeed longtime top administrator Julia Griffin, who retired after a 25-year tenure.

“I am committed to the continued onboarding of our new town manager and helping in any way I can,” Christie said. “I hope that my long years of service and institutional knowledge are proving valuable to Alex.”

Prior to his Selectboard service, Christie had served on the town Finance Committee and on nonprofit boards that include the Hanover Improvement Society and Aloha Foundation, an outdoor youth organization in Fairlee.

Town ballot voting will take place at Hanover High School Gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to the elections of officials, the ballot contains seven voter questions pertaining to proposed zoning changes.

The town business meeting will take place in the gymnasium at 7 p.m. There will be a floor vote on 23 warrant articles, including the town operating budget, requests totaling $29.8 million for a new wastewater treatment plant and water infrastructure upgrades and voter authorization to transfer 5 acres of town-owned land to developers for workforce housing.

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

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