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Newcomer challenges incumbent for selectman's seat



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Karen Ober (click for larger version)
May 02, 2012
SANBORNTON — Voters heading to the polls in Sanbornton during next week's annual town elections will face a choice between youthful enthusiasm and experience in the race for an open seat on the board of selectmen, with newcomer Mark Ryba challenging incumbent Karen Ober for the three-year term.

Karen Ober

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Mark Ryba (click for larger version)
Karen Ober is this year's incumbent in the race for an open seat on the Sanbornton Board of Selectmen, after having been elected to a one year term in 2011 to fill a vacancy on the board.

Ober said the past year has given her a lot of knowledge outside her prior experiences in town government, and she hopes she can continue to expand on that knowledge through a full term as selectman.

In the past, Ober was a member of the Budget Committee, and served on the Energy Committee. She has been a member and chairman of the Old Home Day Committee, a member of the Sanbornton Historical Society, and was part of the development of the Farmers' Market held each summer.

"I enjoy being a part of making Sanbornton a great place to live," Ober said.

She is proud of the many projects she took part in last year as a selectman. Among those are the reconstruction of three bridges, the hiring of both a new fire chief and a Public Works director, and working with all town departments in keeping a frugal budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

"I think it was great we were all able to work together, even when we didn't agree on something," Ober said. "We were able to talk things out, work them out and come to a consensus on matters facing the town."

She also served as the board's representative to the Budget Committee, the Planning Board and as liaison to the fire department.

Ober said her future goals, including ongoing improvements to the infrastructure, is to continue to work toward developing a community in which people can take pride. A flag project last fall to honor veterans from Sanbornton was meaningful to her because it included so many residents who came together to install flags which now adorn Sanbornton Square.

"We placed a plaque at the Town Offices to recognize everyone who donated a flag in memory of a loved one, and I think that's really significant in showing how a community can come together," Ober said. "I am all about working for a greater sense of community pride."

She has also worked hard for that sense of pride outside her role as selectman. Three years ago, she was involved in the creation of the Community Garden, located behind the Sanbornton Public Library. A master gardener who worked for six years on the Advisory Board of the Belknap County Cooperative Extension, Ober helped organize gardeners and resident volunteers to create raised beds where they grow food for the Town Food Pantry, which she also had a hand in establishing.

Being the only female on the current board, Ober feels, has been a positive experience for all as she brings a different perspective to issues.

"I don't jump to conclusions, and I'm not afraid to ask questions. If I'm unsure about something, I might ask for time to research it so I can make an informed decision," Ober said. "I'm always concerned about getting the right information."

As a home-based businesswoman, she added that she has a lot of experience in managing a budget and feels she has made good decisions concerning town financial matters.

Ober and her husband Steve have been residents of Sanbornton for many years, and enjoy working on their farm and spending time with their two daughters and their granddaughter.

Mark Ryba

One of the two names on this year's ballot for the May 8 Sanbornton Town Elections will be Mark Ryba, who is seeking a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. Ryba, who is 25-years-old, is eager to become involved in town politics and said he promises to be the "honest voice of the community" if he is elected.

"I see it as my job to communicate with residents, and bring their thoughts and concerns to the board. What I think isn't what's important — it's what they have to say that counts, and I would be their honest voice. Whether I agree or not, it's their thoughts that count," Ryba said.

As a homeowner and taxpayer for the past two years, Ryba said he is concerned about where tax dollars are being spent in Sanbornton, which was one reason he felt it important for him to seek a seat on the board. Budget matters concerning where and how money is being spent is important to Ryba and he would like to see more differentiation between "what we need and what we think we need."

"Times are tough right now, and we need to stick with things we really need, and not what we would ideally like to have," Ryba said. "We can't compare our town to surrounding communities and what they have."

Sanbornton, he pointed out, has little commercial industry, leaving the home and property owners to bear most of the burden for funding the town each fiscal year. Greater efforts toward fundraising projects and grant applications to assist in some of the necessary expenses facing the town, he said, could be important in lessening the tax rate.

The son of a retired police lieutenant, Ryba said his upbringing taught him to stick with his beliefs and not be influenced by outside groups. He said he is not part of any organizations that might try to sway his opinions, and promised he would do what's right for the town and its residents without outside influence. And he emphasized once more that honesty was what he was all about.

Ryba feels there is not enough communication from the town, and would work to change that situation. Flyers and other means of informing residents as to what is happening in town government, he believes, would be a positive step towards Sanbornton's future.

"The more people know, the better they can make an informed decision before Town Meeting," said Ryba. "There should be nothing secretive about town government, and we should give taxpayers the opportunity to look at what's going on before deciding on issues."

Ryba also said it is time for young residents of Sanbornton to pay closer attention to town government, yet another reason he decided to run for office.

"They could bring new insights and new views," he said. "Hopefully, my candidacy will influence more to get involved."

He himself has attended town meetings since moving to Sanbornton and hopes others his age will participate, as well.

Ryba and his fiancée, Amy Hallowell, plan to be married next year, and look forward to many years as residents of Sanbornton.

"I want the town I live in to be a great place to live and raise a family. I'm trying to do my part, and will hopefully have a lot of good accomplishments in the future," he said.

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