The Town Council to be seated March 24 will show a blend of seasoned experience and new ideas.
Incumbent Phyllis Katsakiores won reelection to the Councilor At Large seat over challenger Marc Flattes, 790 to 365. Richard Tripp took the District 1 seat vacated by Michael Fairbanks, 176 to Maria LeBel’s 121.
Katsakiores, a 50-year resident, has served three terms as a Councilor and is also a Republican state representative.
Her priorities for this next term will include seeing a stable budget.
She’s expressed criticism of the results of the Council’s directive to Town Administrator Galen Stearns to create a budget that cuts $2 per $1,000 from the current tax rate. One scenario from the cut would include laying off a large number of town workers, including police and fire, and for Katsakiores that’s unacceptable. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars training them,” she said. “We don’t want that money to go to waste.”
She’s also not so sure about another option, which would use a larger portion of the Unexpended Fund Balance to reduce taxes, leaving less Fund Balance in reserve. And she’s concerned about Derry’s tax cap, noting, “If we make these cuts we will never catch up. It took us 20 years to get to where we are now.”
While Katsakiores doesn’t want to see the Taylor Library closed, an option presented in earlier years, it’s preferable to laying off police, fire and public works employees, she said, and she has an idea for reusing the building. “It would make a great Senior Center,” Katsakiores, also an advocate for seniors, observed.
“It is going to be an interesting year,” Katsakiores said.
For Flattes, going up against the longtime activist was almost a foregone conclusion. “The outcome was expected,” he said. “You’re not going to win against someone who’s been doing this for 25 years.”
He hasn’t ruled out another run and said he’s going to stay active in the community as a Planning Board alternate and Vice-Chair of the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee, while also tending to the needs of his young family.
“I wish Phyllis and the new Council the best of luck,” Flattes said. “There are some tough decisions ahead.”
Tripp has been a familiar face around town, serving on the Conservation Commission and advocating for veterans’ issues. He is a Vietnam veteran and member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, where he organized candidate forums this past year.
Tripp said in a phone interview that he’s “paid my dues in the community and am ready to expand my sphere of influence.”
Tripp said he’s concerned about the current Council’s initiative to cut $2 per $1,000 from the tax rate. He thinks it’s an arbitrary number. “On what basis do they cut $2?” he asked.
Tripp’s priorities as a Councilor will include working more closely with the School Board, and to do that, he said, the two boards should not have meetings on the same night, which prohibits Councilors from attending school meetings.
According to Tripp, the town hasn’t actively pursued bringing in new business and industry. The medical facilities on Tsienneto Road are a boon, providing many jobs, he said. He also has hopes for undeveloped land on Route 28 South and wants to see more tenants in the town’s existing industrial parks.
“If we broaden the tax base the tax rate will go down,” he said.
But it will take time, Tripp said, adding, “We can’t do it in two days. The mess we’re in didn’t happen over two days.”
He’s not in favor of the $2 per $1,000 cut, noting that it seems arbitrary and he doesn’t understand the basis for it. “That would be a 15 percent cut in the budget, and I can’t justify that large a cut,” he said. He’s against cutting any emergency services personnel, noting that a smaller number of firefighters could extend the response time.
Tripp isn’t necessarily in favor of hiring an Economic Development Coordinator, an idea proposed and rejected last year. Instead, he’d like to talk to Rotary and other community groups and see how they can help solve the problem.
If he doesn’t know the answer to a question, Tripp promised that “I’ll find out.”
And in his free time, he’ll try to influence others to take part in the democratic process. While he was pleased to win, he noted that between him and LeBel, only 300 votes were cast for a District 1 Councilor. “That is a terrible response,” Tripp said.
LeBel said running was a “good experience” and a “learning experience.” “I may try again some time,” she said.
James Webb secured his Trustee of Trust Funds seat for another year, winning over Kathryn Pollizzotto 568 to 404.
In uncontested races, Pat Dowling won a six-year term as Supervisor of the Checklist, Richard Fontaine was a write-in candidate with 64 votes as Taylor Library Trustee; and Charles Zoeller with 775 votes and Helen Evans with 756 votes won three-year seats on the Derry Public Library Board of Trustees.