DERRY — With elections less than two weeks away, Derry's cable TV station hosted its annual forum Sunday and put town and school candidates in the spotlight.
Fielding questions from a panel of local reporters, those hoping to win spots on the Town Council, School Board, Trustee of Trust Fund and library trustee boards gathered at the Channel 17 studio. They gave voters a chance to hear where they stood on budgets, educational funding, and how to make Derry a better place to live and work. David Nelson served as forum moderator.
Four of the six candidates for two spots on the Town Council. They said why they wanted the job and offered thoughts on the downtown, economic development and how the council should get along.
Incumbent District 3 Councilor Neil Wetherbee will face Shannon Coyle March 8.
Incumbent Councilor-at-Large Brad Benson is seeking another three-year term. Neither Benson nor challenger Maria Lebel participated in the event. Doug Newell and Jeff Lawson also are challenging Benson and they did participate Sunday.
Wetherbee said he wants to serve again to continue representing District 3 and building on the successes. He pointing to the hiring of Town Administrator John Anderson as one of those success stories.
Maintaining civility among councilors is also a top priority, he said, and things are going well in that direction.
"It's sort of an urban legend (that there is friction)," Wetherbee said, "but this council has voted unanimously 75 percent of the time. I think the Town Council does get along well and has done well resolving issues."
Shannon Coyle is the wife of Town Councilor Kevin Coyle. Coyle, a Londonderry police officer, said she wants to help Derry maintain its friendly community status and keep council members on good terms.
"I believe in compromise, two sides coming together," she said. "I'm all about solving the problem, not starting any."
Newell, a 28-year resident, said Derry's biggest problem is its high tax rate.
"This is not something to be proud of," Newell said. "Derry has the fourth largest tax rate in New Hampshire, seniors are being run out of town. There are lots of things I can bring to the table, more efficient than the way we are doing it now."
Lawson said he supports revitalizing downtown and getting families out to enjoy what Derry has to offer, including the rail trail and other resources. Keeping economic development projects on track is another priority, he said.
School Board hopefuls Kevin Coyle, Dan McKenna and incumbent Wendy Smith also gave their thoughts on why they wanted the job. Candidate Katherine Prudhomme-O'Brien did not attend the forum.
For Coyle, earning one of two seats on the School Board would go hand in hand with his current position on the Town Council.
With one more year to serve on his council term, Coyle said he would finish that job, while also working to bring the school district and town together.
All three candidates present agreed the school district's toughest decision is the proposed budget and dealing with millions of dollars less in state adequacy funding.
Smith said she hoped to earn another term and continue her work on special education programming.
McKenna has served on the district's Fiscal Advisory Committee for several years. He said his experience would suit the board well as budget constraints are likely to continue.
Voters also will elect a Trustee of the Trust Fund, three Derry Public Library trustees and two trustees for the Taylor Library.
Barbara Holmes and Aimee Huntemann are running unopposed for two three-year terms as Taylor Library trustees.
Likewise, Phyllis Howard, Dorothy Wiley and Christie Wellington are unopposed in their bid for three three-year terms as Derry Public Library trustees.
Mario Iannacone and Elizabeth Burtis are vying for a single three-year term as Trustee of the Trust Fund.
Polls open at 7 a.m. March 8.
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