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A few final thoughts from outgoing Andover selectwoman

Vicky Mishcon, center, goes over a property map with the board of selectmen, the town administrator and residents whose land is affected by a petition to discontinue a Class 6 Road in Andover during the town's board of selectmen's meeting on Tuesday night, March 7, 2012. Mishcon ran for selectwoman after serving three terms on the Andover school board. "When you get into small-town town government, a lot of it has to do with roads, believe it or not," she said. "Roads are the biggest part of the budget and that's not really appealing to a lot of women." 

(Andrea Morales/Monitor file)

Vicky Mishcon, center, goes over a property map with the board of selectmen, the town administrator and residents whose land is affected by a petition to discontinue a Class 6 Road in Andover during the town's board of selectmen's meeting on Tuesday night, March 7, 2012. Mishcon ran for selectwoman after serving three terms on the Andover school board. "When you get into small-town town government, a lot of it has to do with roads, believe it or not," she said. "Roads are the biggest part of the budget and that's not really appealing to a lot of women." (Andrea Morales/Monitor file)

Andover Selectwoman Sophie Viandier takes over the seat held for the past six years by Victoria Mishcon. Why did Mishcon decline to run again in 2014?

She acknowledges some burnout, especially having served as board chairwoman for the past three years. She acknowledges some amount of frustration, particularly at not being able to convince town meeting voters to pass measures that she insists would “definitely have saved the town money.” She also wanted to focus more on her farming, gardening and home projects.

At the same time, she’s proud of several things the selectmen accomplished during her tenure: the move to single-stream recycling at the transfer station; the plan, now being executed, to merge the town’s two fire precincts; the near-complete restructuring of the municipal offices, support technologies, systems and job descriptions; the plan to rebuild the town website to make it more user-friendly; and the town’s early actions to conserve energy.

How did she come to run for the office in the first place?

“You know, I never would have run if I hadn’t been asked repeatedly by several town fathers,” she said. “I had served for nine years on the school board and was ready to step away from that, do more hands-on farming work. But people said they appreciated what I had done there – I’m naturally a conciliator and peacemaker, I guess – and so after a lot of buttering-up, I agreed to run. And I won. And then I won again.”

Has she had role models and mentors?

“Absolutely. For role models, Dennis Fenton, who’s served on just about every Andover board and committee for over 50 years, and Kim Hallquist, an Andover resident, New London town administrator and former lawyer for the New Hampshire Municipal Association. Both of these folks have been there when I needed them at any hour of any day, and for just about any reason. And for a mentor? My husband, Jon, who’s the epitome of calmness. When I get frantic, he asks, ‘Is anyone in danger of dying here? No? Then calm down.’ ”

Biggest surprises encountered on the job?

“Two. On the positive side, it’s nothing short of amazing how many Andover residents give so much free time and advice to the town, largely without recognition or even acknowledgment. On the negative, it’s concerning how often the selectmen will hear presentations, or read proposals or reports, that contain incorrect or misleading information. At a time when it’s never been easier to gather data and facts via the internet, it’s troubling that incorrect or incomplete information is so often presented to us.”

Any advice to Viandier, her successor?

“Several thoughts: First, remember that you’re serving a very diverse community. Second, make sure you get all sides of an issue before coming to a decision. Third, remember that as part of a three-person board, you act as a board and not as three individuals making separate decisions.”

Related

Ray Duckler: Selecting a woman who doesn’t fit the mold

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A new light is shining in Andover: a 21-year-old selectwoman who has nothing in common with the town’s old guard. Her name is Sophie Viandier, and she once hitchhiked across New Zealand, fell in love there and lived on the beach for four months. She’s a tree-hugger on steroids; a woman who’s building a home, mainly by herself, that will … 0

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