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Seven of nine races contested in Franklin’s election

What looked to be a quiet city election in Franklin has been turned on its head as six write-in candidates emerged recently for seats on the school board, city council and as mayor.

Three-term Mayor Ken Merrifield faces a challenge from resident Glenn Morrill, while in city council races, Marty Russo and Jerry Audet are challenging incumbents Ted Starkweather and Tony Giunta, respectively. School board member Steve Barton is running against incumbent Councilor Paul Trudel, but he filed formally in August. For school board seats, write-in candidates Chuck Farmer, Carol Edmunds and Gwen Hall are challenging Chad Carey, Angela Carey and Greg Husband, respectively. As of press time, no one had emerged to challenge Councilor Doug Boyd or school board candidate Timothy Dow.

The polls are open today from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Russo, a locksmith and safe technician, said he is running in Ward 1 because he felt none of the candidates offered reasonable solutions to the city’s problems. If elected, Russo said he’d operate on facts rather than personal grudges. He also said the city needs to prioritize how it spends its money.

“I think councilmen like Ted (Starkweather) sit there and nothing comes out – there’s no discussion during these meetings, there’s no back and forth,” Russo said.

Russo has also accused the council of violating election law, and he filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office accusing a school board member of illegally serving also as a ward moderator. The attorney general’s office declined to rule on the case, but Russo has appealed. (Russo is also the husband of school board member Kathleen Russo.)

Starkweather, a longtime councilor, said he’s running again because he’d like to see certain projects through, such as improvements to Franklin Water Works and other infrastructure, as well as the conversion of the former Bessie Rowell school into a community center.

As a councilor, he said he tries to stay neutral and out of personal disputes. He serves on the council’s municipal services and fire committees and is the council’s representative on the Franklin Business and Industrial Development Corporation. Outside of his council duties, he is a program coordinator for the New Hampshire Fire Academy and was a shift captain in Franklin’s fire department for 10 years.

Audet, a former councilor, will run as a write-in for Ward 1 councilor. When reached yesterday, Audet declined to confirm his candidacy, but multiple people have said he is running.

Giunta, who was mayor 2000-2004, was appointed to the council earlier this year to replace Bob Sharon. He is running to finish the two-year term because he wants to help unite the city and push for the Northern Pass project. As for the relationship with the school board, he said he’d like to see both groups take action on common goals discussed in July’s joint meeting.

“We need to sit down, and as many times as that takes, I’m willing to go to the table,” Giunta said.

The school board and council relationship is also the theme in the Ward 3 race between Trudel and Barton. Trudel originally suggested the joint meeting between both groups. He said he’s running for a second term so he can build on that communication and because he enjoys serving the people of Franklin.

His opponent Barton has served on the school board since 2002, which he said would bring a valuable perspective to the council. During his time on the school board, he said he’s been a reasonable voice during disputes.

Boyd is running for re-election in Ward 2. He is the city’s former police chief and said he works hard as a councilor to support the police and fire departments and listens to his constituents.

In school board races, three of four seats now have write-in candidates. Farmer, who works as an appraiser, is running in Ward 1 because he wants to bring stability to the school board. He believes there is too much animosity on the board and that Husband’s dismissal as football coach has become too big an issue.

“I don’t like what’s going on in Franklin, it’s the only reason I’m running,” he said.

His opponent, Chad Carey, was appointed to fill a vacant seat earlier this year and was a vocal supporter of Husband when he was released as football coach. He said he wants the board to be more open with the public and does not want to fight with the city council.

“I think there’s issues here in Franklin, big time. I think it’s going to take some time to fix, and I’m up for the challenge,” he said at the candidates forum.

Edmunds, a Ward 2 candidate, is a former substitute teacher and Title 1 teacher in Franklin schools. She also served as the community representative on a committee regarding a federal school improvement grant the district received several years ago. She was motivated to come forward as a write-in candidate after deciding she wasn’t satisfied with the slate of candidates available, and she would like to stop the board’s in fighting.

“I want to see a cohesive school board that works together,” she said.

Her opponent, Angela Carey, works in the city’s planning and zoning office. She filed to run for office because she wants the school board to be more open with the public. She feels the board has stifled community discussion recently.

“I honestly think that the school district needs to get back to being concerned about what’s best for the kids,” she said.

In another Ward 1 seat, Husband is running on a platform of more transparency. If elected, he said he would focus on improving how special education plans are handled and push for a consolidation of the schools’ and city’s financial recording.

His write-in opponent, Hall, is running because she said she doesn’t like Husband’s attitude toward the board and wants the school’s positive aspects to be better promoted. She is a teacher in Webster.

Dow, who is running in Ward 3, is a Franklin police officer. He said during last week’s candidates forum that he is running to better the city’s children and thinks a relationship with the city council is important.

In the mayoral race, Morrill said he is running to clean up the city’s negative image. He is a lifelong Franklin resident who worked in the city’s Land and Buildings Department for 17 years. This is his first run for elected office.

Merrifield, who is running for a fourth term, said if re-elected, he will continue to promote the Northern Pass project, try to bring more businesses to Franklin and continue to serve the people.

The polls are open today from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

- Ward 1: Thompson Hall, 47 S. Main St.

-Ward 2: Franklin City Hall, 316 Central St.

-Ward 3: Franklin Middle School, 200 Sanborn St.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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