April 15, 2015MEREDITH — After a lengthy interview with five residents, the current select board of three (Nate Torr, Ray Moritz and Bev Lapham) nominated and appointed Mike Pelczar and Jonathan James to fill the two seats that were left vacant by resignations shortly before this year's election.
The pair said they were "excited" about their new jobs and working with the Town Manager and board.
"This is my first time here, and I think it's a good situation to have this year's experience before next town election," said Pelczar, who was defeated by just 20 votes behind Lapham in the March 10 election.
The two will fill the seats of Lou Kahn and Hillary Seeger, who resigned recently just one day apart. Seeger said she was stepping down for "personal reasons." Kahn resigned after walking out on a meeting when his fellow board members declined to come to his defense against criticism for his views on the Route 3/25 project.
Self-titled "temporary" Chair Torr said at Monday's meeting he hoped the situation of appointing two selectmen at a one time will not come up again.
"If we don't have two selectmen by the end of this meeting, I'm going to cry!" joked Torr, who ran the meeting with members Moritz and Lapham, who ironically, are newly-elected selectmen as well.
Five had thrown their hats into the ring for the two seats, and the board held a lengthy 'mass' interview process before Pelczar and James were appointed. After the meeting, James joked that he had already decided he was "going to run before the date to sign-up was even announced!" Both he and Pelczar lost in this past March election (Pelczar in third with only a 20 vote difference between he and Lapham).T his left the two openings. David Bennett, Rosemarie Landry and Miller Lovett (a former selectman) rounded out the candidate field of five.
The meeting lasted almost two hours (after a work session which introduced the board to a proposed restoration of lots on Stevens Ave.). Torr reminded candidates at the beginning of the meeting that "Being a selectman is not just being that, it's serving on several other town committees and boards as well: (Planning board, Capital improvement, Waukewan Watershed Advisory, Economic Dev. Council and the local energy committee. You will be expected to attend and to report back to this group."
Questions from the board ranged from "What is your experience in volunteerism and how it would best help the board? What are the biggest issues /problems inn town and how would you respond to an angry resident after a contentious meeting?"
To the "What makes a good selectman and what special skills might you have toward that end?" question, James said being "a good listener with common sense" would make a good selectman, while Pelczar quipped that he would be bringing "a little bit of youth to the board.
"I have a background in building (Inter-Lakes Builders, Inc.) and that is a good aspect to be on the board," he replied.
He is a Meredith native and member of zoning board and promised to look into the infrastructure of Routes 3 and 25. James has been on the Zoning Board, member of water commission and trustee of trust funds and assured the board he is a "very good listener."
Biggest town challenges/issues for the town were answered in-kind by the candidates: the current traffic roundabout, summer traffic in general, keeping folks and businesses in town, the budget, the intersection in the middle of town and "Underground utilities, pipes and wires and such at the town's main intersection," added Lovett. James said the challenge for towns "and in every town is to put money away."
All five praised Town Manager Phil Warren for his working relationships with the select board, dept. heads, residents, etc. and all said they would continue to work with the manager in a positive way.
It came as a surprise when Bennett, right before the appointments, withdrew his name from the competition when the interviews concluded.
"I thank the board for doing this and giving me the opportunity to run, but I've decided I need more training; I will come back (to public service)!" he said.
It was the best decision for the town, he added, as "you have a great group of candidates here."
The remaining four also thanked the current board for the interviews. Moritz nominated Pelczar for the position and Lapham seconded. Lapham nominated James and Moritz seconded. the pair both voted in the positive for the nominations and Torr did not vote.
"Hopefully, we don't have to go through this process again," said Torr.
The new selectmen will sit only until next year's March town election. At that time, there will be two three year seats available and one, one year seat.
The board will re-organize at the next full meeting May 4.