Residents could draw little encouragement from a workshop attended by Derry councilors that was intended to help them work better together. Councilors, themselves, could not agree on the results of the session.
The seven town councilors attended a goal-setting workshop last week to talk about priorities for the town and provide a focus for the selection of a new town administrator. In theory, if the Town Council has specific goals for the town, it can then hire an administrator best suited to reaching those goals.
Derry cut its ties with former Town Administrator John Anderson in October and declined to renew his contract. Anderson has a court date Dec. 13 to face misdemeanor charges of lewdness and indecent exposure stemming from an encounter with a satellite television service salesman at his Lane Road home in July.
The council has yet to begin a formal search for a new administrator and has been divided on how to proceed. The workshop did little to change that.
The facilitators of the workshop were Carl Webber and Jen Claise of the New Hampshire Public Risk Management Exchange. Primex has worked with Derry since the late 1970s, offering support with workers compensation, unemployment programs, and other municipal programs and support. Primex led a similar workshop for Derry in 2009.
Town Councilor Neil Wetherbee said the council remains divided.
“I’ve been baffled by the direction and/or lack thereof that council leadership has taken for months,” he told reporter Julie Huss. “I have personally asked for some of what I feel are the more global issues to be placed on the agenda, but have thus far been disregarded.”
Wetherbee expressed disappointment in the workshop, saying that it served mainly to emphasize the difficulty members of the council have working together.
“It more highlighted what we have failed to do as a council over the last nine months,” he said. “At the rate we’re moving, it will be months before we simply address the process to fill the vacant town administrator’s job, let alone consider candidates.”
Wetherbee noted that some councilors seem obsessed with minor matters. One suggestion at the workshop was that the council should review repair logs and records on police vehicles to determine if every requested replacement is necessary.
“The majority of this council remains focused on what I feel are relatively minor issues,” he said. “I don’t think the council should be playing car mechanic.”
Councilor Brad Benson said there was little discussion about the administrator search process.
“We did discuss goals, but did not discuss our vision of a new town administrator,” he said.
The group did reach agreement on three issues: getting Derry’s town and school tax rate under control; economic development; and supporting the town’s business environment.
Town Councilor Tom Cardon said he thought facilitator did well keeping a narrow focus.
“We came up with up with three very important issues that will keep us busy for some time,” he said. “I like the timetable he put on us so that we would stay focused on those priorities.”
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said she’d like to see board members work better together.
“To be friends, no fighting, no name calling,” Katsakiores said.
Councilors do not have to be friends. But they do need to learn to work together.
In our view, the Town Council needs to work on these goals first: to treat each other professionally and with respect, to listen, to act in the best interests of the community and to be gracious both in victory and defeat.
Until they can meet these basic standards, there is little hope of the Town Council achieving any of its broader goals.