Warner select board interviews candidates for third seat

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 08-23-2023 5:45 PM

Typically, on Town Meeting ballots, four candidates will vie for three positions, or select board races will go uncontested. These volunteer positions are subject to public scrutiny and the will of residents.

But with a vacant seat on Warner’s three-member select board, unprecedented interest has emerged for an interim six-month position. In a public interview Tuesday, seven candidates explained their interest in the role. 

On one end of a folding plastic table, Karen Coyne introduced herself as a mother of seven, a two-time cancer survivor and Warner resident as of 2019.

And from the other end of the table, Allan Brown said he knows what it’s like to be on the other side – in the seats of Warner select board members Harry Seidel and Faith Minton. At 73-years-old, he’s a lifelong town resident, who worked as the public works director and later served on the select board from 2014 to 2017.

After asking questions about character, commitment to town and the role of the select board, Seidel and Minton will now choose a final board member from the slate of interested volunteers.

For Krista Chamberlain, Warner reminds her of the small town in Minnesota where she grew up – a close-knit community where residents are often engaged. She and her husband moved to town in 2022, with their two children. 

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In the year she’s lived here, she sees debates over the rail trail, repair to the community center and lease contracts with tenants, and town transparency as key issues facing Warner.

Yet Michael Smith and Romeo Dubreuil see the biggest town dilemma to be the reason that compelled the slate of volunteers to gather – the select board.

“We can’t have what happened last month,” said Smith. “We definitely need three people on the board to carry on without any delays.” 

By now Warner residents know what Smith is referring to – In July, two board members abruptly resigned. With Seidel left as the lone seat, he petitioned Merrimack Superior Court to appoint Minton to the board, also in an interim position. 

In consultation with New Hampshire Municipal Association, Minton and Seidel determined and outlined the selection process at previous select board meetings. The duo collected volunteer interest forms for the position before holding a public candidate’s forum. 

“We’re unfortunately going to be able to appoint one person but there is going to be a place for everyone to engage and we need you,” said Minton. “The town needs you to move together.” 

Minton and Seidel will deliberate in a public meeting on Friday and vote on a third board member. The hope is that the elected person will be sworn in ahead of the next select board meeting on Tuesday, August 29. 

Most candidates held prior experience in town affairs – serving on the planning or zoning boards. 

That’s the case for Derek Narducci, who is a current member of the zoning board. 

But when thinking about how he’d address conflict if serving as a select board member, he didn’t turn to variance or land use disputes.

Instead, a lesson from his grandfather sticks with him. 

After fighting with his sister growing up, Narducci’s grandfather sat the siblings down. If they wanted to continue bickering, they’d have to argue from the other persons' point of view, he told them.

Now, when addressing conflict, Narducci goes back to this lesson. 

“That brought a lot of perspective into my life about what that person is thinking,” he said. 

As a former educator, Sara Colson agreed. Understanding where someone else is coming from is the first step to finding the patience to work through a conflict. 

But with the current state of town affairs, a key element needs to be restored first.

“It goes a little bit deeper than that. It is repairing trust. The biggest issue in town is repairing that trust and moving forward that the hope would be that that would be fixed rather quickly,” she said. 

That’s Coyne’s motive for volunteering for the position, she said. She’s concerned about the town, and with professional experience in problem-solving, budgeting and financial management, she can serve as a liaison between the town and its residents, she said. Not to mention, her cancer battles reinforced an appreciation for the support a small town like Warner can provide. 

“It shaped my perspective by emphasizing the importance of community,” she said. “From the minute we came here we fell in love with the town of Warner and we appreciate being a part of this community.” 

On the select board, she’d be direct and honest, she said. To her, the role of the board is to serve the needs of residents, with complete transparency. 

But it’s hard to know what to expect as a select board member unless you’ve sat in that seat, said Brown. He’s stepped up for Warner before and will do it again in this transition period. 

“Unless you’ve been at that table and sat there you can’t begin to understand how much of a job you’re getting yourself into,” he said. “I’ve put in over half my life serving this town and I don’t like to see rocky relationships. I like to see the board of selectmen keeping the town stable.” 

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