By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — Local Rotarians met with a town leader last week to talk economic development and community.
Town Manager Kevin Smith visited the Londonderry Rotary Club meeting at the Coach Stop and told club members he was happy to be settling into his new job.
Smith, formerly a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the opportunity was a good one.
“When one door closes, another door opens,” he said.
After his unsuccessful run for the top job in Concord, he said, it was time to come back to his hometown and start a new chapter.
Smith, his wife, and parents all have deep roots in Londonderry.
“It’s great to be back and seeing the residents of Londonderry now as town manager,” he said.
Coming into the job had some challenges, Smith told Rotarians. The Town Council wanted someone to take economic development prospects by the horn, he said, and that’s what he is very interested in his new position.
“That’s something the Town Council stressed to me they wanted the next town manager to do,” he said.
Smith said economic development is something Londonderry needs, although there are still two sides to the coin when it comes to what residents want.
Some want Londonderry to remain as rural and untouched as possible; others want to see growth to help bring taxes down.
“Both viewpoints are valid,” Smith said.
But with two major projects in the works, growth is coming to Londonderry.
Smith gave details on the massive Woodmont Commons project and also the town’s hopes for the Pettengill Road area in North Londonderry near the airport.
Town officials are working hard to maintain that balance between progress and green space, he said.
Although Woodmont will no doubt bring more people and traffic to town, Smith said the planning phase took several years and things will be handled throughout the planning process as site plans are submitted.
Growing school enrollments will remain on the town’s radar.
Once Woodmont starts going online, school officials will keep track of the enrollment numbers. Woodmont proponents also have details written into the developer’s agreement to help support any growth in the school system that would require additional facilities.
Smith also told Rotarians the town is doing its best to keep residents informed of what’s going on with active online information, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Getting more people in the door at meetings could also be a plus. Rotarian Reed Clark said he wished more people would fill the seats at community meetings every week.
“I’ve been trying to do this for 23 years,” Clark said. “There has got to be a way. We should find out how this town is run.”
Smith said people are so busy, some may not have the opportunity to attend in person. That’s why the town works hard to keep information available through other outlets, he said.
He also thinks the town is doing a good job with its planning and growth management.
“I think we’re growing very appropriately now,” Smith said. “Londonderry has a good balance between residential, commercial and industrial.”