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Branscombe is 'bully' on Ashland

“If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail.” With his hero, Winston Churchill, peering over his shoulder, the man with the “open door” policy, Ashland Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, offers his trademark enthusiasm and engagement when residents come to talk with him in his office at Town Hall. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011
ASHLAND—Town Administrator Paul Branscombe is nothing if not one of Ashland's biggest boosters.

After a long and successful career in business, Branscombe is making a smooth transition into public service. Describing his recent appointment as Ashland Town Administrator as "destiny," he has wasted no time delving into the details and pouring his prodigious store of energy and enthusiasm into the daily operations of the Town of Ashland.

He loves his new job, and it shows.

The former Lloyd's of London insurance representative brings 44 years of business experience to the task of running the day-to-day business of the Town, quickly moving to implement plans to rationalize and reorganize policies and procedures, adding clarity and an added sense of professionalism to the way things are done at Town Hall.

But perhaps the biggest asset he brings to the job is his relentless optimism and a belief that getting everybody on board, working together as a team, is the most important task at hand.

Peering out over the proceedings in Branscombe's busy office is a photographic portrait of his hero, Winston Churchill, with a quote that seems to set the stage for everything that Branscombe believes. "If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail," says Churchill. And while Ashland doesn't have any demons to fight the likes of those that Churchill was facing at the time, the timeless and universal lesson of the power of constructive cooperation is clearly a priority for Branscombe.

Branscombe was appointed as Town Administrator on an interim basis last October, and started full-time in the position as of Jan. 1. Since then, the self-confessed "workaholic" has been at his desk every day by 7 a.m., often staying until late at night, learning the ropes, reviewing the files and mastering the RSA's that determine so much of what happens in municipal government with a characteristic entrepreneurial spirit of innovation, frugality and hard work.

He says that with the help of the exemplary office staff at Town Hall, he has been able to get himself up to speed very quickly.

"Thanks to the wonderful ladies in the office, I have learned the lay of the land," says Branscombe. "I know where everything is, I understand everything that we are working on, and I am familiar with the entire cast of characters."

It's the latter which, he says, is his primary focus as he gears up for the annual governmental cycle, which began this week with the inaugural meeting of the new three-member select board.

Branscombe has great faith in the new board. He says the Town is emphasizing a new "transparency" in everything it does, as reflected by the fact that select board meetings are now being video-taped for citizens to view at their convenience.

He also believes that the voters of Ashland registered their support for the Town's direction at the recent Town Meeting; almost every item on the 2011 Warrant was voted in at the polls on election day, including all the money articles. The only initiative that did not pass was the petitioned warrant article asking voters to return the select board to a five-member board. The voters elected to reduce the board to three members at last year's Town Meeting, and reaffirmed that vote this year. Dennis Potter as Chairman, Jeannette Stewart as Vice-Chair and Daniel Golden took their seats on Monday of last week and got right down to business for the new year.

For his part, Branscombe has taken the "bull by the horns" and thrown all his energy into the many initiatives that are moving forward this year in Ashland. He says he is "fascinated" by things like the Smith River Bridge project, the Squam Covered Bridge repair work, and renovations at the Ashland Booster Club. He is also working on a project, with Public Works Director Mark Ober, to improve things at the Transfer Station, reduce expenses, increase recycling and educate the public about ways to save money and the environment.

Making the Town more energy efficient is also high on his priority list, as the Town begins to work on implementing some of the findings and recommendations from a recent energy audit of town buildings.

But in everything that he does, Branscombe says that dialogue among departments and between town officials and the citizens of Ashland is the key to getting things done. The man with the "open door policy" says that he has spent countless hours listening to residents talk about some of the problems that they are facing during these difficult economic times. He says that residents are most concerned about avoiding an increase in their taxes, something Ashland has been able to do in recent years. Branscombe says he is even optimistic that ways will be found to lower taxes in the coming years.

Finally, economic development and downtown revitalization has been near and dear to his heart for a long time. He has been deeply engaged in the economic revitalization initiative that is going on in Ashland, which has already resulted in a number of significant improvements to the streetscape in the downtown area. The objective is to capture some of the economic power of the large numbers of travelers who come through town on their way to Lakes Region and White Mountain attractions in the area and to vacation homes in the local region.

"Ashand is just a super town," says Branscombe. "We have so much to offer. It is great to see people stopping off to explore our retail shops and restaurants, and the many other scenic and cultural resources we have here in town."


Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Alton School
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