Challengers emerge in Franklin mayoral, school board races
Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield is now facing a challenger in his bid for a fourth term, as lifelong Franklin resident Glenn Morrill has announced his intention to run a write-in campaign. At least two residents also plan to run write-in campaigns for the school board.
Morrill, 61, has never held elected office in Franklin. He said he’s running because he wants to clean up the negative relationship between the city council and school board, which came to a head this summer when the council held a public hearing on citizen petitions to oust two school board members. He said he was encouraged to run by friends and small-business owners who think the negative image is hurting the city. He made a decision to run about three weeks ago, after the filing period closed.
“A lot of negative stuff has been out there this summer, and I want people to remember there there’s positive things and many folks work very hard to promote Franklin on a very positive basis,” Morrill said. He added that he thinks the mayor should be neutral in disputes between the council and school board.
Morrill heads the maintenance division at Golden Crest and did landscaping with the city’s Land and Buildings Department for 17 years. He is a fifth-generation Franklin resident and has volunteered on the city’s conservation and heritage commissions, at the Veterans Memorial Ski Area and the soup kitchen, and as a Little League coach and assistant Boy Scout leader.
Merrifield, 50, is in his sixth year as the city’s mayor, and previously served on the council and school board. He beat challenger Clayton Gassett, a former mayor, in one of his three elections and was uncontested in the other two. He said he is also disappointed with what’s transpired between the city council and school board but is confident that the relationship will improve when certain board members leave office in January. (Chairman Ray Yonaitis is one of four people not seeking re-election.)
“All of us would like for the relationship to be better, but even the mayor can’t control everyone, and I don’t think that anybody would like it if the mayor did control everyone,” he said.
Merrifield moved to Franklin in 1987 and has been active in various community organizations, including the St. Paul’s church choir, the Elks lodge, the historical society and the Franklin Opera House, among others. He also created the Mayor’s Drug Task Force, aimed to curb drug usage among the city’s youth. He recently began a job as business administrator in the state Department of Education after working in the Department of Health and Human Services for 14 years.
If elected for another term as mayor, he said he would focus on bringing more business to Franklin and continuing to fight for the Northern Pass project, which would bring a converter station to Franklin that would drastically increase the city’s tax base.
“On the whole, I feel that I have done a really good job, and I’ve been very committed to promoting Franklin, and in every instance doing what I think is right for Franklin,” he said.
Both Merrifield and Morrill are Republicans.
In the school board races, at least two people are waging write-in campaigns. Gwen Hall is running against former football coach Greg Husband to represent Ward 1, and Carol Edmunds is challenging newcomer Angie Carey for a seat in Ward 2.
Hall, a first-grade teacher at Webster Elementary School, is running because she thinks Husband has a negative attitude that could be detrimental to the schools. Husband has spoken out repeatedly about what he says are unlawful actions by two school board members and Superintendent Maureen Ward since his contract as football coach was not renewed in the spring.
“You shouldn’t be running for the school board if you’re suing these people,” Hall said. “That’s when I said somebody’s got to step up to the plate because we need to have a choice.”
Hall said if elected she would like to bring more positive energy onto the board and better highlight the district’s accomplishments. She met with the superintendent and other administrators before deciding to run and said the schools are heading in a positive direction when it comes to implementing new standards and improving test scores.
“I really do care about Franklin schools and want to see nice, positive things. No more negativity, no more mudslinging,” she said. “Those students are working so hard there, and I want (them) to leave Franklin schools with their heads up high.”
In response, Husband said Hall should not comment on his actions when she is uninformed about the situation. He said he’s been filing Right to Know requests and gathering information, which leads him to believe some board members and the superintendent have violated policies. Attorneys will comment on lawsuits if they are filed, he said.
“The public is not aware of everything they have been doing,” he said.
He also wants to see the school handle special education plans better and be more open with taxpayers. Earlier this year, the council proposed a possible consolidation of the city’s and district’s financial management, and he would like to see both sides move in that direction if it will save taxpayer money.
About 50 percent of teachers have left Franklin in the past three years, he said, and he wants to make sure teachers don’t come to work in fear.
Any citizen waging a write-in campaign should have come forward in time to participate in the candidate’s forum earlier this week, he said.
“They should have spoken in front of the citizens,” he said.
Edmunds, who is running in Ward 2, could not be reached for comment, but her friend Judy Baca told the Monitor that Edmunds is running. If elected, she would like to establish a better rapport between the council and schools, and she thinks the teachers deserve more recognition, Baca said. Edmunds will challenge Angela Carey, who works in the city’s planning and zoning office.
Also running for school board seats are incumbents Chad Carey and Timothy Dow. Incumbent city councilors Doug Boyd, Ted Starkweather and Tony Giunta are all seeking re-election.
The original version of this article misspelled the last name of Carol Edmunds.