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Faces in the Crowd: Scott Dunn



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Town Administer Scott Dunn in his office at Gilford Town Hall. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
September 21, 2011
Between dealing with the impending budget deadline and various personnel issues, plus the usual day-to-day business of running a town, Scott Dunn recently found some time to give a look into his life as Gilford's Town Administrator.

The current issue on Dunn's desk is the 2012 budget, which is on every department head's mind as the budget committee goes into action and the municipality continues to tighten its belt.

"We always try to balance doing a better job for the taxpayers without raising taxes," said Dunn. "We're trying to get the budget as low as we can, and identify what services are going to be reduced."

Dunn said the hardest part is keeping up the services to which Gilford residents have become accustomed while creating a flat-line budget. Their main concern is keeping up funding with the public safety departments, Police and Fire. Dunn said he and the selectmen try hard not to hinder them in their duty to the Gilford community.

According to Dunn, the town budget makes up 27 percent of the total tax bill. He and the selectmen have no control over the rest.

With no mayor, decisions in Gilford are made by a three-member Board of Selectmen who are elected officials, and who each serve a three-year term. The current lineup is Chairman John O'Brien, Vice Chairman Gus Benavides and Clerk J. Kevin Hayes. The Town Administrator is an appointed individual who also serves a three-year term and essentially works for the selectmen.

According to Dunn, his duties include carrying out the selectmen's wishes and giving advice when necessary.

"He gives excellent advice," said O'Brien, also remaking on the level of experience Dunn possesses.

"Scott does a great job," said Hayes. "He has the town's needs at heart."

Dunn also works closely with the town department heads and the various citizen boards and committees, aiding them with technical advice and support when necessary. Dunn sees it as helping them do their jobs, as opposed to supervising.

"The town could not run without them," said Dunn.

Dunn is not originally from Gilford, or even from New Hampshire. He grew up in Soutbridge, Mass., which he said is similar to Laconia in population and history as a manufacturing town which became a hub for surrounding communities.

Dunn went on to study public administration in college, and received Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field.

Before Dunn settled in Gilford, he held positions in many communities in Maine and Vermont, and in the seacost town of Seabrook.

When the administrator's position opened up in Gilford, Dunn said he "jumped" at the opportunity.

"I can't think of a better place to live," said Dunn, citing Gilford's "active and caring citizenry" and many resources which they are "truly fortunate" to have. Most towns simmilar in size to Gilford usually are without amenities such as the Gunstock Resort, Laconia Airport, Meadowbrook, and Lake Winnipesaukee, Ellecaoy State Park and the town beach.

"We have a great staff, and a good group of people. What distinguishes Gilford from other towns is the respect people have for diverse opinions," said Dunn, adding that many times, people are willing to "agree to disagree."

Dunn has a son who is a senior at Gilford High School, a daughter living in Maine, and a wife with three children of her own. He added that his wife is due to be a grandmother in the very near future.

In his spare time, Dunn can be found on the racquetball court. He said he loves to play, and tries to at least four times per week.

Dunn also really enjoys cursing the lake on his boat or riding his motorcycle, and along with a game of golf or a tennis match, enjoys a good book.

When the snow flies, Dunn enjoys skiing and snowshoeing.

"Once upon a time, I was a hockey player. I still strap on the skates once in a while," he said.

At heart, Dunn said he is a libertarian. He often has to balance that philosophy with his daily responsibilities.

Dunn said his number one goal right now is the Liberty Hill clean-up effort; he is currently waiting on the NH Department of Environmental Services to make a final decision on the procedure.

Another constant project for Dunn is improving all town roads. Dunn said that making sure roads have a good surface, base and proper drainage is important, but also a very expensive undertaking, so it is a gradual project.

Dunn said that overall, the position of Town Administrator is a tough job, at the heart of which is making decisions. Every decision a Town Administrator makes will inherently upset someone.

"It's impossible to please everyone," he said. "It would be easy to sit here and not upset anyone by not making any decisions, but that's not in my nature."

Dunn said he is not capable of sitting idly by when something needs to be done.

"I'll always be like that for the rest of my life," he chuckled. "I told the board that hired me, 'I am an agent of change.'"

Dunn has been the Gilford Town Administrator for the past three years, and, having just signed a new contract, looks forward to serving the community for another three years.

Editor's note: The preceding story is the first in what we hope will become an ongoing series of profiles on Gilford's movers and shakers, as well as those who work behind the scenes to make it the wonderful community it is.

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