, Derry, New Hampshire


March 27, 2014

Editorial: Council chairman steps off on wrong foot

Hold on to your hats, Derry residents, the Town Council has a new leader and he put the pedal to the metal almost as soon as he was elected chairman.

The council, with a record of division and dysfunction, convened with its two newly elected members last week and chose Mark Osborne as its new chairman.

The expectation might have been for Osborne, a lawyer by trade, to run well controlled and courteous meetings that actually advance town business.

Unfortunately, Osborne, whose ascension seemed predetermined, appeared to have an agenda well mapped out, including the selection process for the long-delayed appointment of a new town administrator.

First, councilors voted, 5-2, to conduct the search themselves. Councilor Al Dimmock said the town’s record of choosing the right person for the job isn’t very good. No argument there.

But he also characterized himself as a “cheapskate,” unwilling to spend $15,000 of taxpayer money for professional help. The town’s current budget is about $37 million. Even allowing for inflation, even doubling the cost of a search firm to $30,000, it would be money well spent.

Credit Councilors Phyllis Katsakiores and David Fischer for voting against the majority.

There’s little reason to believe this Town Council has the expertise to find the right town administrator without some outside help and the town could use a strong and capable leader.

Osborne tried to take that a little bit farther, suggesting a special, three-person subcommittee could best do some of the heavy lifting when vetting candidates. Fortunately, that idea didn’t have much traction and the group will proceed as a full body. Good move, councilors.

Perhaps Osborne is overcome with glee that he no longer has to look across the table and see the scowling countenances of former nemeses Brad Benson and Neil Wetherbee. Or, perhaps, as a councilor of just one year himself, the power of his new position left him light-headed. Whatever the reason, Osborne would do well to step back, consider the council’s role and goals, and walk the talk.

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