Concord City Council Ward 10: Incumbent Rice Hawkins challenged by lifelong Concord resident Foote 

Jeff Foote and Zandra Rice Hawkins are running for city council in Ward 10.

Jeff Foote and Zandra Rice Hawkins are running for city council in Ward 10. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 11-01-2023 4:27 PM

Purple bags, leaf collection and traffic.

When Concord residents talk to Zandra Rice Hawkins about the community’s needs, these three items come up time and time again.  

These routine grievances can come with solutions, she said. Leaf collection was recently upgraded with new machinery that made it more efficient. The pay-as-you-throw purple bag system could be complimented by a composting program to reduce waste. Cut-through traffic could spur alternative transportation methods with improved sidewalks and bike lanes.

“The good and bad news if you are somebody who cares about your community is that there’s always something else to do and always another need to be met,” said Rice Hawkins. 

Rice Hawkins is running for re-election in Ward 10, a position she’s held since 2019. Jeff Foote, a fourth-generation resident of Concord, who currently serves as the Director of Public Works in Bedford, is challenging her for the city council seat. 

“My candidacy for the city council in Ward 10 is purely altruistic,” he said. “I've had decades of experience collaborating with residents to advance all sorts of projects including economic development for the betterment of the community. I believe my education, training and experience will bring a unique perspective.”

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For Foote, the needs of the city can be told through the eyes of three senior citizens he visited in East Concord before he started his campaign. They want to age at home but rising property taxes challenged those plans.

To relieve property tax pressure, the city badly needs to grow its economic base, he said. 

In Bedford, his day-to-day job involves the town’s tax increment finance districts and private and public partnerships. 

“Economic growth must foster ideas that promote good and safe roads, clean water, provide good environmental stewardship and recreational opportunities,” he said. 

Concord has the ability to deliver all of those things in Concord. 

Rice Hawkins agrees. She said her work on the council demonstrated a track record of addressing issues like economic development and affordable housing. 

Before Rice Hawkins lived in Ward 10, she was a resident of Penacook, where the absence of a grocery store was a gap for neighbors, she said. On city council, she supported private and public partnerships to build Merchants Way off of Exit 17, where a new Market Basket supermarket now fills that need. 

 A fourth term on the council would allow her to continue progress on city goals – like increasing the diversity of community members who volunteer on boards and commissions. 

Alongside Stacey Brown, who is the Ward 5 councilor and also running for re-election, Rice Hawkins has created a binder of committee vacancies that she brings to public events to share with residents, as well as a standard application to apply. There is no streamlined application process, nor are any vacancies posted online. 

That’s just one way to increase transparency in the city, she said. In addition, the City of Concord website could be more user-friendly to help residents better understand the “legislative jargon” used by the council on votes and decisions. 

“There is a difference between having something accessible and having it easily understood by the public,” she said. 

She also called out “suspense items” brought forward by other city councilors – which are last-minute additions to meeting agendas, sometimes so late that the public does not have advanced notice. 

“We shouldn’t be making big decisions or having those discussions without proper notice,” she said. “I would encourage the next city council to look at that and potentially eliminate it.” 

The clubhouse renovation at the Beaver Meadow Golf Course is another point for the next council to look at, said Rice Hawkins. 

With a proposed multi-million dollar price tag, councilors will need to engage the community to see if it’s a top priority for the city or not. Rice Hawkins would also like more data on clubhouse users, like whether they are Concord residents or not. 

Foote said he has traveled to other public golf courses in the country and seen the investment a facility can have in a community. It’s not just a site for local golfers in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter, he said. A revamped clubhouse could host weddings, community events and conferences. 

“Is it as high priority as police, fire and public works, which we all know is essential? No,” he said. “But as the city becomes more densely populated, people are going to need areas to recreate and that facility is one of the centerpieces that we must support.” 

If the city is going to invest in a clubhouse renovation, Rice Hawkins would like to see the golf community contribute, she said. It’s no different than the city asking parents to raise money for a new playground at White Park or the skateboard community to fundraise for improvements to the park next to Everett Arena. 

“If we are going to be putting in a lot of taxpayer dollars, I’d like to see some skin in the game from those users,” she said. “If we are going to do these things, then everybody has to have the same give and take.” '

Both candidates participated in a Concord Monitor forum for city council candidates last week. The event was recorded by Concord TV and can be viewed online.