By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — The five candidates hoping to earn a seat on the Town Council did their best to convince voters of their suitability Sunday during a Channel 17 forum.
The men talked about taxes, the downtown and how to make Derry a better place to live and work.
Candidates fielded questions from a panel of local reporters. David Nelson served as moderator of the annual “Political Connections” forum.
Participants included incumbent Town Councilor David Milz, who is being challenged by Tom Cardon, for the District 2 seat.
Incumbent councilor-at-large Joel Olbricht also wants another three-year term and goes up against newcomer Mark Osborne. District 4 council hopeful Al Dimmock is running unopposed for the open position.
The men were asked about high taxes, economic development and how the council could better work with the school district on budget items.
Candidates opened the afternoon saying why they wanted the job.
Milz said another term would help him continue the positive momentum he sees on the council right now.
“I enjoy what I do,” he said. “I love the town of Derry and I want to be involved to do the best for Derry.”
Osborne wants the council job. He said high taxes should be on everyone’s mind when they head to the polls next month.
“I am concerned about where the Town Council is taking us,” he said.
Osbourne said he was disturbed to see so many empty storefronts in the downtown on his way to the forum Sunday. He said it’s getting too expensive to live and work in town.
Cardon has run for the council before and lost by only one vote the last time he tried. As a teacher, he said, he is organized and ready to do what is best for Derry taxpayers.
“Taxes are always going to be a problem in Derry and they are possibly going up again this year,” he said. “This is not acceptable to me.”
Dimmock is running unopposed for the District 4 slot. He said it’s time for him to be sitting at the council table instead of being a regular in the audience at meetings.
“I want to be the voice of the town,” he said. “I want to be there for the people and I hope they are there for me.”
Milz cited many success stories in Derry, including the recently completed Route 28 expansion on Manchester Road and the planned expansion of water/sewer services south on Route 28 toward Salem.
The downtown is also key, he said.
“Derry has a quaint, New England style downtown area,” Milz said. “We need to still continue to develop it in some way.”
Olbricht said this is an exciting time for Derry.
“It’s also an exciting time to be on the Town Council,” he said. “We are all focused on what we can do downtown. Economic development is important and it’s the right thing to do.”
Cardon urged everyone to get out and vote next month.
“It’s one of the most important things that directly affects your tax bill,” he said.
There’s a race for town clerk, too, but only one candidate attended the forum.
Challenger Janet Fairbanks appeared to give her reasons for wanting to be Derry’s town clerk. She is running against incumbent Denise Neale, who did not attend, but sent in a statement.
Fairbanks said she is qualified for the clerk job and brings 20 years of bookkeeping experience. She also served as a town councilor for six years. If elected, she said, she would streamline the clerk’s office by updating procedures and making the office more accessible.
“I will make sure the office is always staffed,” she said.
In her statement, Neale said she wanted to continue the work she has been doing and continue to make the clerk’s office as efficient as possible.
“This is the central component of our town government,” Neale wrote. “We play a critical role in all elections, and maintain and preserve town documents.
Derry Public Library trustee Elizabeth Ives is seeking re-election. She attended the forum. She is running for one of two open spots, as are incumbent Joan Crimlisk and James Thomas, neither of whom attended.
In addition to Town Council and town clerk, voters will choose two School Board candidates, both Derry Public Library and Taylor Library trustees, and a new Trustee of the Trust Fund.
Polls open in Derry on March 12 at 7 a.m. Polls are located at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School for District 4 voters; Districts 1 and 3 will vote at Pinkerton Academy; and District 2 residents will head to Calvary Bible Church.