DERRY — Town Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks hopes for good behavior.
At a recent meeting, Fairbanks said someone mentioned to him he might want to brush up on his rules when it comes to how to run a meeting.
“Someone whispered in my ear that I should brush up on Town Council rules and Robert’s Rules,” he said.
The suggestion came, Fairbanks said, after previous meetings and budget workshops during which statements and opinions often grew heated among councilors and the public.
Derry’s Town Council traditionally operates under its own set of rules, according to the town’s charter. The classic guidebook Robert’s Rules is the fallback choice for how to operate a meeting when council rules don’t cover a specific topic.
With three new faces on the Town Council, the dynamic is new and personalities are still growing into a comfort zone.
Fairbanks was elected to the council in March 2012; this year, he took on the chairman’s duties. He said he wants to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the process while on his watch.
“Any councilor speaking will be allowed to speak, to finish, without being interrupted,” Fairbanks said.
He added councilors have many opinions, but he doesn’t warrant any disrespect when it comes to honoring those differing views.
That also goes for behavior during the public forum portion of meetings. In past weeks, opinions and statements toward councilors got a bit heated. But Fairbanks said he believed everyone getting up to speak was respectful.
“That’s what I would expect from the public,” he said. “What I was hearing were questions, opinions, suggestions and requests.”
Other councilors said the new group still needs time to become familiar and not fall into attack mode when discussions get emotional.
“As to the council working as a cohesive unit, time will tell,” Councilor Neil Wetherbee said. “We need to keep our focus on the future and stop rehashing the past.”
Councilor Tom Cardon, one of the newcomers, said he also thinks the group can work together successfully.
“I think there is always a break-in period whenever a new group gets together,” he said. “Yes, we have different personalities, but I think we can work out differences and work together.”
Councilor Mark Osborne, another newcomer, said each councilor is doing what he or she thinks is best for Derry.
“But it is unlikely that the Town Council will be voting in unison any time soon,” he said.
The Town Council hopes to put key issues back on a workshop “to-do” list for the next several months including Exit 4A, a joint meeting with the Planning Board, a discussion on a potential library merger in the future and other goals.
Fairbanks said he is still learning and appreciates the help of his colleagues.
“If I veer off course, I hope the other six get me back on course,” he said.
Osborne said it’s good to give residents a chance to hear new ideas and give them a choice about what road the town might take.
“We accomplish that end by engaging one another in vigorous, public and civil debate about our competing visions,” he said.
Osborne said he feels good that the group will move forward in a positive way. He said he is happy to be sitting where he is.
“And, nope, I’m not discouraged in the least,” he said. “I love serving, I am having a ton of fun, and I hope it shows.”