Werner, Riley face off in Ward 5 election

  • Lucy waits as Darlene Olivo fills out her ballot at a voting booth in the West Street Ward House in Concord's Ward 7 on Tuesday afternoon, November 2, 2010. "She's a Yellow Dog Democrat," Olivo joked.(John Tully/Monitor Staff) John Tully

  • Rob Werner

  • Shawn Riley

Monitor staff
Published: 11/2/2017 11:57:21 PM

Both candidates for the Concord Ward 5 city councilor position have deep roots in the community. But challenger Shawn Riley will have to work hard to unseat incumbent Rob Werner, who has held his position uncontested since 2011.

Riley has never held public office before and lost a bid for city council in 2015, but said he is willing to give it another shot because he loves the city and feels the city council needs to be more careful when making spending decisions.

“We need to be analyzing data and making good decisions,” he said, “not just knee-jerk or quick decisions just because we want to save the tax base.”

Riley said that means being good stewards of tax-payer money – although said he couldn’t think of any recent projects that illustrated poor spending – and he is supportive of the city council having veto power over the school board’s budget.

Riley said he’s keeping an eye on the conversation developing around Rundlett Middle School, which could cost up to $84 million to renovate. A father of two, Riley said the school needs work, but the school board needs to carefully analyze what goes into the building and what doesn’t.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean cutting corners.

“If we build something, we need to build it for the future,” Riley said.

Riley said the biggest problem facing the city is the opioid epidemic. He currently serves as the Laconia Deputy Fire Chief, and said the problem needs to be looked at from the perspective of an economist – focusing on supply and demand.

“The folks struggling with addiction need help and the criminals guilty of attempting to profit off this need to be dealt with harshly by law enforcement and the court system,” Riley said.

Riley doesn’t have too much to say on the gambling game keno, saying while he’s not a gambler himself, he’s not opposed to a form of gambling coming into the city to offset the tax base.

This is one place where Riley and his opponent diverge. Werner said he is opposed to expanded gaming on the state level and will personally vote against it for philosophical reasons.

But Werner and Riley are also noticeably different in terms of experience: Werner has served on the council for the last 10 years; the last seven have been unopposed. He said continuing to expand the tax base is the biggest issue facing the city, along with environmental sustainability.

Werner is supportive of the city council’s current course, saying the city’s investment in its downtown has paved the way for more interest in the city.

“The other night, you couldn’t find a parking place,” he said at a candidate forum hosted by the Monitor. “...People are stopping here coming back from the mountains. They’ve heard about it; this is Concord’s Main Street.”

Werner is against the city council having veto power over the school board’s budget, saying the council should maintain its current policy responsibilities and not seek to expand them.

Werner, the chair of the city’s Energy and Environmental Committee and the state director for the New Hampshire League of Conservation Voters, has led the effort for Concord to commit to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent renewable heat and transportation by 2050. While he acknowledges the idea is ambitious, he has said the initiative would put the city on the right track to a sustainable future.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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